Exactly one week ago, Prime Minister Gaston Browne surveyed the damage on his tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda and declared that Hurricane Irma had completely devastated the island and left 90% of all dwellings leveled. Browne went on to say that Irma's "absolute devastation" meant that Barbuda was "basically uninhabitable" for the 1,800 people who called it home.
Now, according Barbuda's Ambassador to the United States, Ronald Sanders, the entire island has been evacuated for the first time in 300 years leaving "not a single living person on the island of Barbuda." Per the USA Today:
“The damage is complete,” says Ambassador Ronald Sanders, who has served as Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the U.S. since 2015. “For the first time in 300 years, there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda — a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished.”
“This was a huge monster,” he says. “The island and the people on the island had absolutely no chance.”
“We’ve had most of the people we’ve brought over to Antigua in shelters,” says Sanders. “We’ve tried to make living accommodations as good as humanly possible in these circumstances. Fortunately, we had planned ahead for this hurricane, and we had ordered supplies in from Miami and the United States before the hurricane hit.”
First images out of Barbuda from a Facebook broadcast live by ABS Radio & TV.
Widespread destruction has occurred on the island. pic.twitter.com/0MGShjxuU8
— TTWeatherCenter (@TTWeatherCenter) September 6, 2017
As the following aerial footage from the BBC shows, not a single structure was left untouched by Irma's 185 mph winds.
Meanwhile, even though Barbuda residents have been evacuated to safety on Antigua, Sanders says the mass evacuation has resulted in an unsustainable situation with massively overcrowded schools and unsanitary living quarters in government facilities.
Though Barbudan evacuees are safe, Sanders says the situation is not ideal — people are living in cramped quarters in government facilities and nursing homes, including some 500 school-aged children. Now that school is back in session, Antigua must find room for these students.
“The situation is unacceptable, and it’s costly,” he says. “We’re going to have to keep this going for sometime because Barbuda’s not going to be rebuilt in a hurry, and when we do rebuild it, we’re going to have to rebuild to massive hurricane standards. This is going to take a while. There is no electricity there, there is no potable water anymore, there is no structure in which people can survive. We have a mammoth task on our hands.”
Sanders says the world must step up and help Barbuda.
“We are a small island community — the gross domestic product of Antigua is $1 billion a year,” he says. “We cannot afford to take on this responsibility by ourselves. Barbuda is not just a disaster, it’s a humanitarian crisis. We are hopeful that the international community will come to our aid, not because we’re begging for something we want, but because we’re begging for something that is needed."
Finally, Sanders took the opportunity to remind us all that, in his scientific opinion as an Ambassador, Hurricane Irma was the direct result of all of our contributions to global warming....
“We believe climate change is here to stay — it’s a reality, despite all of the naysayers,” he says. “We know that these things have occurred as a result of the profligacy of the countries that are rich, and have abused the system. We, unfortunately, who contribute less than naught point naught percent of pollution of the world’s atmosphere, are the world’s greatest victims.”
Oh well, we probably just don't understand the math...