destruction on St. Maarten

The Caribbean is beginning to pick up the pieces after the recent hurricanes. David Dalgado, on the British Virgin Islands, explains what the Red Cross is doing to help.

There’s a phrase doing the rounds here: ‘Everything’s mash up’. Talk to someone on the islands for long enough and you’ll hear it. ’My roof, my door, my car – everything’s mash up’, or at least something is.

The phrase has more than a grain of truth to it. Many homes have had their doors and windows blown in and their roofs blown off.

The inches and inches of rainfall dumped in a few hours soaked everything. Stoves, washing machines, books. Important papers, bedding and clothes.

There’s still no electricity, and very little running water. There is glass debris everywhere.

Even if their homes are left standing, faced with this level of destruction, many don’t feel like they have a home to go back to.

I’m here to try and get things organised with the local branch of the Red Cross.  I’m working out who most needs support and registering people for assistance.

We’re also here to support the evacuation shelters. We find out how many people are there and how they are going to be supported to get back to their homes.

We’re trying to work up a longer term programme, which will hopefully leave people more resilient.

Sleeping in schools

The relief effort has been delayed by the damage to infrastructure. Roads were damaged, and people heavily rely on cars to get around. It seems like every car has a broken windscreen, or at least a pane of glass.

People are sleeping in a range of evacuation shelters on the island. Some people are in the churches, sleeping on pews. They put down what soft bedding they have to make them more comfortable.

Others are sleeping in schools. There’s a tension there, obviously. The education department needs to reopen the school – but some people just have no other place to go.

Some families have got people they can stay with on the islands and some have been able to leave. It’s the migrants who are a little bit more marginalised here.

One family I met from Dominica had nowhere else to go. What with hurricane Maria, they can’t get back to Dominica now. They’ve got quite a rough time ahead.

Many people in more menial jobs – tourism, cleaning, construction – are without work because the businesses aren’t functioning.

The phone networks have been down and most people don’t have generators.

Amid all the devastation, the Red Cross is doing what we can.

Support our Hurricane Appeal

Over the past few weeks the Caribbean has been battered by hurricanes.

Hurricane Irma left many of the islands barely habitable. Hurricane Maria closely followed. Ripping through these already vulnerable islands, it caused further devastation.

Red Cross volunteers and staff are here giving first aid, shelter and water to those affected.

You can save lives. Please donate now to help families who have lost everything.