Hurricane Irma: Caribbean update

Written by Georgia Tindale

It has been a week since hurricane Irma, one of the most intense hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic, crashed through the Caribbean and the Florida Keys, leaving devastation in its wake.

Photo byCaribbean Buzz Helicopters

More than 1.2 million people were affected by the hurricane across the Caribbean, with islands such as Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands and St Maarten suffering particular damage.

For the yachting industry in the region, Irma has impacted with varying degrees of severity. The Bitter End Yacht Club, a popular resort based on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands was completely destroyed by the hurricane last Friday, as shown in this devastating video:

Video byCaribbean Buzz Helicopters

A relief fund set up by the owners of the club to support the employees of Bitter End and the Virgin Gorda community has raised just under $180,000 at the time of writing.

However, on the popular chartering destination of Antigua the situation could not be more different. As Alison Sly-Adams, Vice President of the Caribbean Sailing Association told us, “We were very lucky here in Antigua to escape the recent storms; the island is virtually unscathed. As we gear up for another Caribbean yachting season, our boatyards, marinas, docks and anchorages are intact and for our charter and service companies, it’s business as usual. For yachts planning on coming to the region who want to help neighbouring islands who were not so lucky, YachtAid Global is an excellent organisation to work with, as they are working with each island on its individual needs.

Photo byCaribbean Buzz Helicopters

Although the devastation caused by Irma in the region is beyond description, charitable groups and yachting professionals in the Caribbean have come together in their relief efforts.

Lucille Frye, Managing Partner of BWA Yachting based on the affected island of St Maarten, told us: “Humanitarian aid is beginning to flow into St Maarten from NGOs around the world and a coordinated response is being led by the Dutch Military and St Maarten’s Disaster Emergency Manager. YachtAid Global, a leader in the disaster response space, has yachts en route to participate in this very complex response, and they desperately need donations.

Photo byCaribbean Buzz Helicopters

Frye continued, “We are now moving from the initial rescue phase into the recovery stage and this is where the yachting industry can help. There have been an overwhelming number of offers from the yachting community to assist with rebuilding efforts. Yachts have contacted us offering to carry items over to the Caribbean on their way in for the charter season. Aside from monetary donations, this is another area in which the yachting community can offer vital assistance. There are meetings with key industry players early next week to try and organise this further.

Photos by Margot Asphe

BWA have also set up their own fundraising site for ‘Frye’s Ark’, the repurposed yacht, Lorena from RM Croisieres, which is currently bringing supplies to the worst affected islands in the region, including Sint Maarten, and can be reached here. So far, they have raised over €13,000 of their €100,000 goal.

Restoration will take years in both the Caribbean and Florida, but you can do your bit to help those affected by the storm through volunteering or donating. For a list of charities who are helping the affected areas, visit this link.

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