Still reeling from Hurricane Irma, residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands were expecting the worst on Saturday in the midst of reports that the territories would also be hit by the Category 4 Hurricane Jose that night.
However, that storm passed north of the islands, sparing them of further carnage.
Still, residents there are still struggling to get back on their feet after experiencing the largest recorded hurricane in the Caribbean’s history. One of their primary concerns now is restoring law and order.
“Widespread looting has been observed throughout the territory,” the BVI government stated on Saturday morning. “This is the most basest form of humanity, especially in light of what we all have just endured during the last 48 hours. At this time, we should be helping our fellowmen and not stealing from them… Looters will not go unpunished.”
While BVI resident Freeman Rogers reported a relatively calm and peaceful atmosphere in the territory’s capital, Road Town, conditions are more unstable in the eastern area of the BVI’s main island, Tortola, according to residents there.
“People are getting desperate,” BVI, East End, resident Christina Kissoon texted a Compass reporter on Saturday, confirming reports of looting.
Another BVI resident, Rosalie Jennings, told the Compass on Saturday that tensions are running high at Her Majesty’s Prison, which had its roof torn off by Irma, leaving inmates living in squalid conditions.
“You can hear a lot of yelling and shouting going on there,” said Ms. Jennings, who lives within 400 yards of the facilities.
The front gates were “wide open,” she added, which would allow prisoners in the minimum-security areas to escape – though she did not confirm any escapes.
The Cayman Islands Royal Police Service has sent a team of 16 officers to assist the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, which has seen only a fraction of its constables report to duty, according to reports on the ground.
On the sparsely populated BVI island Jost Van Dyke, the situation is reportedly more dire.
“There are people with guns,” Nina Tatum, a USVI resident who said she’s assisting with relief efforts in the BVI, told the Compass. “People on Jost Van Dyke are requesting immediate armed security services. They say they are running out of food and are in need for protection, as they now fear for their safety and lives.”
In the USVI, military patrols the street, and the streets are “pretty locked down,” USVI resident Erin Furnas told the Compass.
However, the hospitals there “are not functioning,” she said. USVI Governor Kenneth Mapp reportedly said in a press conference Sunday morning that the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency is establishing a temporary hospital there. Meanwhile, dialysis patients and others in need of urgent care are being transferred to the USVI island St. Croix or Puerto Rico, Mr. Mapp reportedly said.
At least three people have been reported dead in the USVI, while there have been five confirmed fatalities in the BVI. Essential services largely remain offline in both territories.
Puerto Rico has also had five fatalities from Irma, but is otherwise in better condition than its neighboring Virgin Islands, said Carla Minet, the executive director for the Puerto Rico-based Center for Investigative Journalism.
“Government agencies and concerned citizens are working hand-in-hand on the streets to reinstate their communities and neighborhoods,” Ms. Minet told the Compass. She added that while there was a peak of 6,298 refugees in shelters on Wednesday night, only 192 remained by the next day.
Additionally, the PR Electric Energy Authority had restored power to 144,000 customers by Thursday night, said the executive director.
However, as of Friday, some two-thirds of the island were still without power, only roughly 47 percent of the island’s hospitals were operating, and roughly 27 percent of the population didn’t have water, she said.