Barbuda Completely Devastated, Civilization Extinguished — and Along Comes Maria

If you are thinking about visiting the clear waters and pink sands of Barbuda at any time in the near future, forget about it: “The damage is complete. 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.”

Barbuda Completely Devastated, Civilization Extinguished — and Along Comes Maria

Ronald Sanders has served as the ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States since 2015 — and he did not mince his words when he was interviewed by Todd Zwillich of The Takeaway for Public Radio International and said that “The situation is unacceptable, and it’s costly. 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.”

All of the approximately 1,800 residents of Barbuda were evacuated — many of them to Antigua — and an estimated 95 percent of the structures on the island are damaged or destroyed because of the direct impact of Hurricane Irma, which was a Category 5 hurricane with a maximum sustained wind speed of 185 miles per hour and was “the most ferocious, cruel and merciless storm”, according to Sanders…

…and along comes Maria, which is still a tropical storm at this time — and once again, Barbuda finds itself as one of the islands under a hurricane watch, as the storm is expected to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane sometime today, Sunday, September 17, 2017. The storm — which is 450 miles east southeast of the Leeward Islands and is moving west northwest at 15 miles per hour — is currently forecast to pass south of the island, which would be relatively “good” news.

You can view photographs and videos of the destruction of Barbuda from Hurricane Irma here.

The island narrowly “dodged a bullet” when Hurricane José — which was classified as a Category 3 hurricane on Friday, September 8, 2017 with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour — threatened to further devastate the island of 62 square miles. At what seemed like the last moment, the storm then jogged towards the northwest just before reaching Barbuda, sparing the island from further devastation — if that was at all possible.

Summary

The destruction is clearly visible on the small island of Barbuda from space. The photograph on the left at the top of this article shows the lush tropical island on Monday, August 21, 2017; while the photograph on the right shows Barbuda after Hurricane Irma lashed its fury and power on it on Friday, September 8, 2017…

…and yet, Antigua appears relatively almost untouched. While the people of Barbuda are still coming to terms with the vast destruction of their island and are a long way from recovery, electricity has been restored to most of Antigua; and Vere Cornwall Bird International Airport is back in operation.

Before and after satellite photographs of other islands significantly impacted by Hurricane Irma are included in this article.

“We are a small island community — the gross domestic product of Antigua is $1 billion a year”, Sanders said during the interview. “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.”

Reconstruction of the infrastructure and buildings on the small island is currently estimated at $200 million — and that initial figure could very well increase.

Hopefully, Maria will spare Barbuda — as José did…

…but in the meantime, please take 13 minutes and 58 seconds of your time to listen to the interview — or read highlights of the interview with access to the complete audio in this article pertaining to Barbuda needing assistance from the world as compiled by T.J. Raphael.

Source: United States Geological Survey, with image composition and graphics by Joshua Stevens.

2 thoughts on “Barbuda Completely Devastated, Civilization Extinguished — and Along Comes Maria”

  1. icicle says:

    Thank you. As a South Floridian that just endured Hurricane Irma, we were fortunate to have damage that can be repaired quickly.

    But many of us are thinking of the islands. Rumor has it (true or not as all rumors are to be) that the U.K. is slow to respond to help. To be fair, the U.K. has its hands full with Brexit and keeping its citizens safe from recent bombings. So many of these islands are in desperate need of help- money, infrastructure, and the knowledge of what to do next (a daunting task when one is faced with re-creating a nation from scratch.)

    So thank you for writing about a devasting loss as such.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Barbuda and the other islands do not seem to be getting much attention; and when I found that interview, I was stunned — so I felt compelled to share the story.

      My thoughts are with you, icicle, as I hope that you and your neighbors recover completely as quickly as possible.

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