British Virgin Islands: ‘Knocked Down, but Not Knocked Out’ by Irma

Basic infrastructure remains fractured on the majority of the islands. Famed resorts like the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda were completely razed. Residents said they had waited up to three hours in lines outside supermarkets and food pantries on Tortola.

And the government has imposed a curfew as it deals with security problems.

Supermarkets and electronics stores were looted in the two days after the hurricane, Mark Vanterpool, the minister of communications and works, said in an interview. About 168 inmates, most serving minor criminal sentences, escaped after the hurricane damaged the territory’s prison on Tortola, Mr. Vanterpool said.

“The prison was compromised, the roof was broken and the fence of the building was compromised,” Mr. Vanterpool said. “Many of them have come back to the prison. Many of them left to check on their families and realized that they should not be out.”

The police have captured some of the prisoners, he said, adding that the islands were “back to a fair sense of normalcy.” The government expects the commercial sector to be up and running by December, and most resorts to be open for business within a year, he said.

“We’ve been knocked down, but not knocked out,” Mr. Vanterpool added.

Relief efforts for the region have come from near and far.

Richard Branson, the English business mogul and founder of the Virgin Group, weathered the hurricane inside a wine cellar in his home on Necker Island, which he owns. Although his home was destroyed, Mr. Branson has spearheaded relief efforts and has called for a “Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan” in the islands.

Many residents were away for the season, or “off-island,” as people here say, during the hurricane. Yet thousands of people with a connection to the islands, residents, ex-residents and loyal tourists, have organized on social media to share updates, and organize evacuations and fund-raisers.

At Jost Van Dyke,…

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