Pummelled US Virgin Islands marginalised in disaster crisis
If Irma hit like a right hook, then Maria was the sucker punch, battering islanders while they were already down. Around a month after the first of two deadly hurricanes collided with the US Virgin Islands, the recovery is still in its infancy.
Power lines droop over the main roads in Charlotte Amalie, the territory’s capital. More than half of the roof of Saint Thomas’s commercial airport no longer exists, replaced with tarps. All the schools have been closed. About 90% of the territory has no power and most people no drinking water.
While the plight of neighbouring Puerto Rico, hit hard by Maria, prompted an outcry in the face of a slow federal recovery effort, the crisis on the US Virgin Islands, home to 100,000 US citizens, has had less focus. The White House blamed “difficult logistics” for Donald Trump not stopping there on his trip to Puerto Rico last week. But last Friday vice-president Mike Pence flew into the territory’s second island of St Croix, where Maria hit hardest. He said the administration “will be with you every day until the US Virgin Islands comes all the way back”.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), the government agency responsible for disaster management, has begun to roll out inspection teams. But, said agency spokeswoman Renee Baffles, it had been “very difficult” to reach all the remote communities. More than 14,600 islanders have so far registered for help with Fema.