Quick update from Puerto Rico, where we are working hard to coordinate aid efforts before returning to the British Virgin Islands. We have been meeting to discuss the best ways to mobilise relief in the BVI, with community leaders as well as BVI Governor Gus Jaspert, Secretary of State for DFID Priti Patel and the FCO. Some of the immediate plans are below.
Tomorrow my son Sam, the team and I will be back in the BVI, helping with supplies distribution in conjunction with the local authorities to support people on the ground. We will be handing out canned foods, water, medical supplies, sanitary supplies and other essentials to the surrounding islands. We have people on the ground in Virgin Gorda, where we are focusing lots of our efforts.
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic have arranged special relief flights both independently and in conjunction with the UK Department for International Development, to the British Virgin Islands and Antigua – with plans to distribute further aid, building materials, blankets and bottled water over the following week.
It’s been truly heartwarming to witness the global outpouring of support for the communities across the Caribbean that have been hit hardest by Hurricane Irma. We’ve received hundreds of emails from people across the world who share our love of the BVI and its wonderful people and who are willing to make their resources available to help in whichever way they can.
The challenge in disaster situations is always to make sure that offers of support meet the real needs on the ground, and our teams are working hard to support the BVI and UK governments in assessing what is needed the most and mobilising the resources at our disposal. It is a lengthy undertaking, given the extent of devastation on the ground, but I’m hopeful that we’ll soon gave a better picture of the situation, so that we can channel the fantastic goodwill we encounter in the most effective way.
The Foreign Office, now coordinating closely with the BVI Government, as well as the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Ministry of Defence, has set up a Crisis Centre to coordinate the government response. All offers for supplies, food and transportation will be directed to The FCO, where they will be tallied and assessed. This makes a lot of sense to me, because central coordination is the only way of ensuring that available resources are deployed most effectively.
It is so sad to see the damage Hurricane Irma is still doing in the US, and our thoughts are with all those affected there. But I must repeat the unique nature of the challenge in the BVI, which suffered under the full effect of the strongest Category “7” hurricane ever to hit the Atlantic, and is isolated from outside help. The entire country is unable to function properly, with tens of thousands of people having lost their homes and livelihoods.
But people remain positive, and I know the British Virgin Islands will get through this together. Please donate what you can to Virgin Unite to support the local BVI communities, working with local organisations to identify the ongoing needs of affected individuals, families and communities affected by this disaster.