With Donald Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico Tuesday, attention will be returning to the devastation Hurricane Maria brought the island — and for good reason. The US territory remains in crisis: Islanders are still waiting in long lines for food, water, and fuel; the power grid and communication infrastructure is still mostly down; and the death toll is expected to rise dramatically.
But we also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that several other islands in the Caribbean are also still struggling to meet their citizens basic needs in the wretched aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and Hurricane Irma before it.
From Barbuda, which had to be evacuated and remains uninhabitable, to Dutch St. Martin, where 90 percent of the buildings were damaged, this hurricane season has been brutal. (Dominica, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and Cuba were also seriously banged up in the storm.)
With their white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, Caribbean islands are magnets for tourists from around the world. But they’re also remote and often poverty-stricken places, which can be difficult to reach with aid, and where even the wealthiest islanders (in the Bahamas) have a per capita GDP of only $27,000 per year.
That’s what makes the islands particularly vulnerable to severe weather events — and what makes their recovery prospects after Irma and Maria worry-inducing. So in the conversation about the US government’s woefully slow response to Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million citizens in need, we shouldn’t forget these other islands, too. Here’s a roundup of how the some of the worst-hit islands are faring after the storms.
1) Barbuda’s 1,600 inhabitants were forced to abandon the island after Hurricane Irma hit: It’s not an overstatement to say that Hurricane Irma annihilated Barbuda, the Caribbean island with 1,600 inhabitants that forms a country along with Antigua southeast of Puerto Rico. “The damage is complete,” Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador Ronald Sanders told Public Radio International, shortly after the storm. Some 95 percent of the islands homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by Irma, prompting islanders to flee.
“For the first time in 300 years,” Sanders said, “there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda — a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished.”
On September 29, a full 24 days after Irma struck, Barbuda’s evacuation order was finally lifted. But a recent account from the Washington Post reported that the island had “gone feral” and that locals weren’t flocking back:
Abandoned dogs had formed packs and were taking down livestock. From the hospital courtyard, Cuffy could smell death — animal carcasses rotting in the rubble. A corner of the roof had collapsed, the windows blown in. The medical dorms were a scrap heap. An ambulance was wedged into a tree.
2) In the US Virgin Islands, most people are still without power: This group of islands — and another US territory — in the Caribbean were devastated by the one-two punch of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. The islands’ governor, Kenneth Mapp, told Here and Now on September 21 that three of his islands — St. John, St. Thomas, and Water Island — were decimated by Irma, and he had been using St. Croix as a base for their recovery. Then Maria came along and hammered St. Croix, too, wrecking 70 percent of the buildings there.
The power was knocked out, and islanders were left to rely on generators, Mapp said. As of October 2, FEMA reported that only 15 percent of customers on St. Thomas and 10 percent of customers on St. Croix had their power restored.
Today, Mapp will meet with Trump in Puerto Rico to ask for more relief aid. He’s estimated the cost to repair the damage and rebuild the island’s electrical grid will ring in at $200 million.
3) Hurricane Maria killed 27 people in Dominica — where even the prime minister was left homeless: An island to the east of Puerto Rico, Dominica was also shredded by Maria. Its prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, said after the storm that there wasn’t a single street left unscathed, according to the BBC. Even he lost his home in the natural disaster.
Twenty-seven of Dominica’s 73,000 inhabitants were declared dead as a result of Maria, with dozens more went missing.
“We are receiving support, but not enough,” Augustine Taruka, a manager at a shelter, told ReliefWeb. “We received some drinking water on the 28th [of September] but it is already finished, and I can’t let the children drink water from the river as they might get ill. We are trying to collect rainwater, but we don’t have enough buckets.”
Skerrit also pleaded for help before the U.N. General Assembly last week, telling his peers that "the desolation is beyond imagination."
4) Irma left 10 Cubans dead and destroyed many of Havana’s fragile buildings: The US State Department is warning Americans to avoid travel to Cuba right now because the country is in major recovery mode following Irma. In Havana, roads were destroyed, buildings collapsed, and power and water services were down. Other parts of the country are still without power and running water, the State Department warned, while the official death toll from Irma stood at 10. There’s an ongoing worry among Cubans that the fragile buildings in Havana will continue to collapse because of the damage left behind by the storm, CNN reported.
5) Irma and Maria collapsed the infrastructure, electricity, and communications lines of the British Virgin Islands: The British Virgin Islands were beaten by both Hurricanes Irma and Maria (though Maria caused less damage than some feared). Still, the collapsed infrastructure and knocked out electricity and communications lines were enough to inspire Virgin Group founder Richard Branson to call for a Marshall Plan to help rebuild the British territory. (His own private island, Necker, was not spared by the storms.) “These hurricanes are causing unimaginable destruction,” Branson wrote on his website.
6) A third of Dutch St. Martin’s buildings were ruined: The Island of St. Martin, which is split into two sides overseen by French and Dutch control, was also walloped by Irma. A third of the buildings on the Dutch side of the island were destroyed, and 90 percent were damaged, according to Reuters. So far, more than a dozen people died as a result of the storm, with hundreds registered as missing.
All of these places will be looking to the United States, the United Nations, and international relief organizations to recover and rebuild after this brutal hurricane season. Want to help? Here’s Vox’s guide to donating to the relief efforts.