« Back to Field Reports

Hurricane Irma Field Report – continuing progress in the British Virgin Islands

Since 6 September, Team Rubicon UK Greyshirts have been working in several different islands in the Caribbean in response to the triple hurricane surge of Irma, Jose and Maria. As Team Rubicon UK’s operations in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Antigua, Barbuda, Dominica and Barbados come to a close, volunteers remain in the British Virgin Islands and are continuing recovery work that began five weeks ago. Simon Gee, a Greyshirt currently based in Tortola, has an update on what the teams have been up to in the BVI.

Team Rubicon have been working tirelessly over the last five weeks to identify and conduct rapid needs assessments and urgent repairs on public buildings in the British Virgin Islands. These include 13 schools, a care home for the elderly, a fire station, Virgin Gorda International Airport, a communications mast and the Virgin Islands Search and Rescue Base. Volunteers have also assisted various organisations in areas such as logistics, personnel coaching, and working with governmental bodies to coordinate the distribution of aid.

The most notable achievements to date are as follows:

Adina Donovan Care Home

Situated in Road Town, Tortola, Adina Donovan Care Home is responsible for the care of 25 elderly residents some of whom require extra care due to deteriorating health.

Hurricane Irma substantially damaged the upper floor of the split-level Adina Donovan building, with complete loss of the roof. This led to widespread flooding and damage to personal belongings, furniture and medical equipment. TR strike teams cleared out the building to reduce health risk and allow structural assessment. This consisted of removal of remaining collapsed building structure such as roof joists, furniture, medical equipment and personal belongings. This was followed by a complete clean out of remaining dirt, debris and water.

With the loss of upper floor space the centre was forced to make even more use of its wooden covered deck area for residents during the day. However, the area is now badly affected by mosquitoes which are attracted to the water-logged foundations that are all that remain of a neighbouring property, and this presents a health risk to the residents. To alleviate this problem drainage trenching was constructed and the foundations broken out to remove stagnating water now and in the future.

Beneficiaries 35 residents and staff

Cedar International School

Cedar International School is a non-profit baccalaureate school on the edge of Road Town, Tortola. Unlike most schools on Tortola, Cedar’s buildings and teaching materials survived relatively unscathed after both Hurricanes Irma and Maria. This along with reduced student intake (70 instead of 268 for the autumn semester arising from the evacuation of many children until the New Year), created an opportunity for Principal Scott Crawford to support the island community by accommodating displaced schoolchildren and teachers with schooling on the CIS campus. Its outside areas were however insecure with damage to fencing, communal areas, play areas and sports pitch preventing children from coming back to school.

TR undertook a range of work orders including refitting sunscreen tarps, clearing and burning debris, felling trees, re-purposing materials and relaying artificial turf in the sports area. Volunteers also undertook extensive repairs including large sections of chain link perimeter fencing, a children’s play area, the school’s generator and water pump, external structures and raised vegetable planting beds.

This has allowed the school to open its doors to pupils as hoped, making use of its excess capacity, with a high degree of normality. The curriculum offered has been modified to suit the wider pupil intake and is focused on sports activity, academic studies, and personal development and reflection.

The work that was undertook on this school led to visibility and engagement with the Ministry of Education and ultimately responding to their requests to assess and where appropriate carry out schools works.

Beneficiaries 305 pupils and teachers with significant secondary benefits to families of same.

Ellmore Stout High School

Ellmore Stout High School in Road Town is the island’s biggest school with 1600 students. The school suffered unimaginable damage, with walls and buildings completely destroyed and extensive damage to teaching materials. The building was in the early stages of being converted to a library and it had suffered some roof damage and was letting water in.

The Ministry of Education asked if TR could assist in the clear-out of the building. The project has been a great success.

Rotary received an aid consignment from Puerto Rico (dispatched before Maria hit PR). This included a partition walling system and sheeting materials as well as plasterboard. Team Rubicon volunteers unloaded the freight trailer in the Rotary initiated central distribution hub for aid. Next the material was unloaded at the build site. An initial design was made for 26 classrooms working closely with the local project works manager. Team Rubicon volunteers completed most of the work to build the classrooms in under nine days, in time for the planned school opening. The build was supported by volunteers from a British Police detachment, working after their shifts had finished, as well as teachers and maintenance staff.

On Monday 9 October Ellmore Stout opened its doors to hundreds of students. It was a very positive day with students, teachers and other residents enlivened and appreciative of the quality, quantity and speed of work completed. Students are now preparing for their exams.

Beneficiaries: 1600 students and teachers.

Team Rubicon UK continues to provide vital disaster relief to the British Virgin Islands with plans to remain operating in these schools which have been assessed to have the greatest impact possible. On 12th October 2017, TRUK assembled a team to the island of Josh Van Dyke to deliver and install 25 Shelter Boxes in an austere environment.

Leave a Reply