May 27, 2018

Branson calls for 'Marshall Plan' to help Caribbean

16 Setiembre 2017, 10:48 | Cornelio Vivanco

Irma causing destruction on Cuba. Alejandro Ernesto EPA

Irma causing destruction on Cuba.     Alejandro Ernesto  EPA

In a series tweets over the weekend, the Virgin founder showed the destruction felt by Necker Island and other surrounding British Virgin Islands when the category 5 storm hit last week. But elsewhere, a humanitarian disaster has unfolded, one terrifying islanders, many of whom are infuriated by the lack of attention. According to CNN meteorologists, Irma is a classic "Cape Verde hurricane", meaning it formed in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa. "Our Caribbean neighbors need support so we've been mobilizing our industry to not only take in travelers who have had their vacations disrupted to serve as a transient hub for them, but also help with relief efforts being conducted by local and USA authorities".

Some travel companies said they are still assessing the situation and had not made firm decisions about rerouting ships.

The Tim Duncan Virgin Islands Relief fund has more than 9000 donors.

Hurricane Irma left behind a stark divide in the Caribbean ahead of the winter tourism season that is the region's economic lifeblood. "The Red Cross, UNICEF and partners are distributing essential supplies including food, safe water and hygiene kits but the needs are immense" he said in an email.

Looting also started soon after Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean island of Tortola. "We had to fend for ourselves", he told Reuters.

The French government sent an additional 410 gendarmes and 80 police officers to keep order in its Caribbean territories, where troops are routinely stationed. Security has become an issue, with one resident telling Business Insider, "Everyone in our neighborhood is walking around with sharpened machetes and guns for protection".

Some 120 residents of the facility have been evacuated "due to intense heat and no power", WSVN said. At least 10 people died there, despite massive evacuations.

But there was still urgent need for assistance.

"Over the coming weeks, we'll have to assess exactly what is needed. But will we survive the aftermath?"

AccuWeather's Joel Myers lamented that, "Unfortunately, there is no way the United States is going to avoid another catastrophic weather event".

"I don't think anything could have prepared us for what Irma actually was".

But even if United States territories retain their current status, their citizens should have voting representation in Congress and a right to cast ballots in presidential elections. "Resorts have been decimated", Branson said Friday after a tour of Virgin Gorda, a nearby island southwest of Necker. St. Croix is center of relief efforts as the other two islands are unsafe.

But there has seen severe damage to airports, roads and buildings on many islands. "All they kept saying was that Irma was in the Caribbean and headed to Florida". "And we don't know what to do", she wrote. "And it's not like we can drive to New Jersey and get stuff".

Sinead Burkett, a 26-year-old property manager who lives in Atlanta, wiped away tears as she waited for her two brothers and a sister to arrive from St. John.

But the lack of US attention has left some feeling like "bastard step-children of America".

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