Hurricane survivor recalls aftermath of the storm
A LOUGHBOROUGH resident who had his house damaged by Hurricane Irma and was forced to take shelter in his bathroom for two days while 190mph winds destroyed “everything in sight” has finally returned home.
Skyler Shah, 26, of Deer Acre, Loughborough, flew out to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands in April, and just a few months later found himself in ‘survival mode’ in the aftermath of a category five hurricane.
The psychological coach told the Echo that he had just moved into a new house on the coast of Tortola three days before the hurricane hit.
He was then forced to lock himself in his bathroom and shower cubicle for two days, with only a small amount of food and water while the storm raged outside.
He said that he had seen the weather reports and like the rest of the island he knew what was coming, but never expected it to end in the tragedy that it did.
Skyler said: “The villa that I moved into was a little run down when I first moved out there but I was planning on doing it up and making it my home.
“But then a week later Irma was on the way.
“The hurricane went from category two to category three within a matter of hours, and then we were told that it was going to be a category five which meant we barely had any time to prepare for it.”
He said that he boarded up the windows of the villa and parked his car outside the bathroom window for extra protection.
He said that he put his mattress and bed frame up against the bathroom door to blockade himself in.
At around 4am on Wednesday, September 6, Skyler said this was when the hurricane was at its most destructive.
He said: “I could hear what was going on outside and although it was scary I felt well prepared and calm.
“Water did start to come in under the bathroom door and I was ultimately sleeping in a flood but I couldn’t do anything about it.”
He said he was trapped in the bathroom from Wednesday until Friday.
Skyler said that eventually the hurricane started to die down, and that was when he went into ‘survival mode.’
He said: “The first thing that I did after the storm started to pass was make myself a coffee. I had to do something normal because it had been chaotic for the last two days. So I made myself a coffee and then made a plan from there.
Skyler said that he couldn’t believe the wreckage on the island after the storm, he said: “Everything had been destroyed, houses had been blown away, my car had been blown away, it was horrendous.
“There was nothing left and I just didn’t know what to do.
“This was when I went into survival mode and I knew that I had to try and get myself home, or at least get a message back to my parents.
“My first priority was to find a way of communication, and then my second was survival.”
“I had to go into the town centre to try and find more support.”
And it was here that Skyler managed to send a satellite message to his family back in Lough- borough to let them know that he was okay and that he was trying to get home.
Skyler said that he eventually managed to book a flight back to the UK a week later, but that he had to wait for three days in Tortola airport because so many people were trying to board planes and only a limited amount of flights were heading off the island.
He said that he then flew to San Juan airport in Argentina, then onto Birmingham airport via JFK in New York and Dublin, eventually arriving back in Loughborough on Tuesday, September 19.
On returning to Loughborough, Skyler said: “I am pleased to be back home and feel safe, but it really puts it all into perspective. Some of the problems that people face back here are nothing in comparison to what people are going through out on Tortola. I want to do all I can to help everyone that is still out there.
“I was lucky to be able to get back home and I consider myself lucky to be alive, I could have died out there.
“It has been hard to get out of survival mode, but I am trying to get back to normal life now.”
Skyler told the Echo that he is now urging anyone who can help rebuild Tortola after the destruction from Hurricane Irma to make a donation to www.virgin.com/unite/bvi- community-supportappeal
Pictured is Tortola in the British Virgin Islands before Hurrican Irma struck.
Skyler’s home in the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma struck.
Pictured is Skyler’s home in the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma struck.
Skyler Shah and his car that was destroyed by Hurricane Irma.