‘This Is A Horrific Disaster’: U.S. Virgin Islands Face Massive Recovery Effort After Hurricane Irma

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The United States Virgin Islands are beginning a lengthy recovery process after being hammered by Hurricane Irma.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp delivers a Sunday evening update:

“This is a horrific disaster. There will be no restorations or solutions in days or weeks,” Gov. Kenneth Mapp said at a news conference Saturday. “Let’s manage our expectations.”

St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island have been without any electrical service for more than five days, Mapp said.

The islands caught a break when Hurricane Jose, which had been bearing down in Irma’s wake, altered course, sparing them from a powerful follow-up storm.

A curfew was in effect on St. Thomas from 6 p.m. to noon, authorities said. However, authorities said a handful of people were ignoring the curfew and had been arrested. The curfew was in place in order to facilitate recovery efforts, Mapp said.

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Mapp said that relief supply distribution centers had been opened and were distributing food, water and tarpaulins for shelter.

However, residents should understand there is a limit to the supplies, Mapp said.

“We’re going to be giving out more of those and you’re not going to get to a distribution center in one day and get everything that you need,” Mapp said. However, more supplies including tarps were on the way, “and we’ll be able to get that covered.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had begun airlifting supplies into St. John, Mapp said. Residents in need of disaster relief can register at 1-800-621-3362 from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. seven days a week. You can also register online for disaster relief by clicking here.

“We did have some minor bedlam, if you will, at the corrections facility in the Farrelly Justice complex,” Mapp said. The facility had been without power for days, he said. “We were able to quell that situation and get provisions and rations into the facility.”

All of the prisoners, however, were to be evacuated from the facility Sunday. Mapp would not discuss how they would be evacuated or where to for security reasons.

Watch Saturday’s news conference:

“We have some 4,000 visitors left in the Virgin Islands,” Mapp said.  Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines volunteered to send ships to evacuate tourists stranded on the islands to Florida early in the week, depending on damage to Florida, Mapp said.

Mapp said aid applications will be available via smartphones and online, though the program has yet to roll out.

Mapp said that emergency phone banks and computers will be available “no later than Tuesday” for residents to make calls to reach loved ones.

It will be weeks before cell service and computer service will be restored across the islands, Mapp said.

Meanwhile, Tri-State Area residents are also lending a hand to help out the Virgin Islands.

Two members of the FDNY disaster assistance response team and an American Red Cross responder from our area are heading there for a three week mission to feed and house Hurricane Irma survivors.

Jason Lyons spent much of his career living in the Virgin Islands before moving to New York.

“I’m feeling emotional about it,” Lyons said. “I’m going to see the shops I used to visit, the bars I used to go to and the parks that are now destroyed.”

The Red Cross says shelter supplies and ready-to-eat meals for more than 100,000 people are being shipped to Irma impact zones, including areas inf Florida and the Caribbean.

 

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