St. Thomas – In the isle of St. Thomas, overturned motorboats and power lines strewn all over the ground are just a few of the elements comprising the scenario left behind after the strike of Hurricane Irma.
Most private boats are half-sunken near the port in Crown Bay. In fact, the boat Culebra II also ran aground here, after it was brought to this island for repairs six years ago.
Meanwhile, the residents are anxious to return to normalcy, with ice in their fridges and cell phone signal to be able to contact their loved ones.
“I haven’t gotten any ice. I’ve been here since 10 am,” complained a citizen, whose irritation obscured any prior introductions. According to her, even though she has been standing in line for four hours, she had not yet received her bag of ice, which would be 10 pounds of ice for $3.
Parasols aloft under the hot Caribbean sun, about a dozen people waited for the same reason along with her at the gates of Central Air Inc., a business that repairs refrigeration equipment but that, due to the crisis, decided to also sell ice.
The owners of the refrigeration center also shared the electricity produced by their power plant with their neighbor, a bodywork and paint shop whose roof collapsed under the stress of the hurricane winds.
A few meters down and across the Red Hook road, cars were making a line to enter the supermarket's parking lot. This establishment was forced to control its access due to the high client flow. However, the waiting times were minimal, compared to those for the people searching for ice.
The case was similar for those waiting to get fuel in portable containers, and for the ones waiting for service at the local pub in the Crown Bay port. At the pub, the waiters had to rush to fill orders from people belonging to the emergency management teams. Therefore, all other clients had to wait longer—usually more than an hour—to get their food.
Next door, another dozen people waited in front of the AT&T store for customer service, hoping to inquire after the status of telecommunications in the island.
On Tuesday morning, St. Thomas Governor Kenneth Mapp and Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), made their rounds across the island to determine what measures to take in the short and long term.
As part of his urgent request, Mapp emphasized the lack of ice and of tarpaulins, which would be used to secure the roofs of the structures damaged by the hurricane. One of the damaged structures was the Roy Schneider Medical Center, the only hospital in the island, which is why the patients were transported by helicopter to Saint Croix.
“Once we get our situation stabilized and our people taken care of, we must focus on our economic recovery,” Mapp said in a written statement. These comments were made after the president of the United States, Donald Trump, agreed to declare the island a disaster area.
According to FEMA’s administrator, recovery for St. Thomas and the rest of the Virgin Islands will be a long process. The priority will be to make sure that all residents have food, housing, and medical assistance, he stated. Afterwards, they will implement a Loan Assistance Program to continue rebuilding homes and establishments.
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