Aerial video shows the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on St. Thomas in the U.S Virgin Islands. (Sept. 12)
ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — The last of the late-summer tourists were gone Wednesday from the U.S. Virgin Islands, ferried away from the wreckage of Hurricane Irma in cruise ships bound for Puerto Rico and Miami.
Most part-time residents — and anyone else who didn’t have to stay — had cleared out as well, back to homes on the mainland with water, power and Internet, and where food isn’t scarce.
Those left behind on St. Thomas and St. John were surviving on whatever they could find as they tried to repair or secure their houses with whatever materials were available. They had to dodge downed power lines that snaked through hills that were a deep green before the storm but had been so stripped of leaves and trees that they were brown and desolate.
Many were surviving on military rations handed out by U.S. Marines and the National Guard or at a local church that was serving 500 people per day.
“What I see are people coming who are hungry, who are tired, who are thirsty and need help,” said Jeff Neevel, the pastor of the St. Thomas Reformed Church in the Virgin Islands capital, Charlotte Amalie. “It’s a destruction zone. Everything is destroyed. Everything.”
His church got power Tuesday for the first time since the storm hit a week earlier, because it had been designated an official food distribution center. Neevel said one of the most critical needs he sees was for tarps to protect the many homes that had lost roofs. People were also desperate for power and water so they could get back to work and return to some sense of normalcy.