Par­adise Lost

Irma left a trail of de­struc­tion across U.S Vir­gin Is­lands

Waterloo Region Record - - WORLD - Luis Ferré-Sadurni

CHAR­LOTTE AMALIE, Vir­gin Is­lands — The U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands no longer has the air of par­adise.

From above, the is­lands re­sem­ble con­flict zones. The grassy hill­sides are now brown. Leaf­less tree trunks jut out like burned tooth­picks. Sail­boats are stranded on the rocky coasts. On the ground, it is worse. The Red Hook har­bour in St. Thomas was des­o­late on a re­cent visit af­ter hur­ri­cane Irma ex­cept for a few strag­glers try­ing to leave. Newly home­less res­i­dents in Tutu Val­ley idled in 32 C heat out­side their rav­aged homes. On St. John, which was hit the hard­est of the three is­lands, sup­ply he­li­copters buzzed over the once-pow­dery beaches where va­ca­tion­ers had soaked up the sun.

Out­side what was left of a hous­ing project on St. Thomas, a young man opened the doors of his white van and played jazz mu­sic, the notes echo­ing in the now-ex­posed apart­ments. Nearby, the wall be­hind Ureen Smith Fahie’s grey couch had been blasted away. A breeze blew over the rub­ble in­side her apart­ment. I asked what she would have for din­ner. She did not give much of an an­swer.

Cars con­gested the wind­ing roads, with fallen util­ity poles vis­i­ble across the land­scape. When the cur­few lifts, res­i­dents head to food pantries and su­per­mar­kets be­fore they open to beat the hours-long line for wa­ter, ready-to-eat meals and tarps to cover roofs. Ice was the most sought-af­ter com­mod­ity, to quench chil­dren’s thirst and to pre­serve per­ish­able foods.

Amid des­per­a­tion and iso­la­tion, res­i­dents showed re­silience.

Some neigh­bours gath­ered around a grill out­side a build­ing in Tutu. They shared what food they had sal­vaged.

“I see a light at the end of the tun­nel,” said St. Clair De­silivia, 58, who was gath­ered there. “We’ve got to stick to­gether.”


A boat wrecked by hur­ri­cane Irma in Cruz Bay on St. John in the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands. On St. John, sup­ply he­li­copters buzzed over the once-pow­dery beaches where va­ca­tion­ers had soaked up the sun.

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