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Antigua and Barbuda prepared for challenge of rebuilding

From Tribune 242

Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to Washington, DC, has said the two-island nation is prepared to face the challenges of rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma if it does not get outside aid for relief and reconstruction.

Rebuilding is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

In an interview published on on Tuesday, Sir Ronald said: “At the end of the day, it is our country, we have to try our best to keep it going as best we can.”

He also said: “I suspect at some point we will have to organise a conference of donors at which we’ll lay out a sustainable development plan for Barbuda and invite countries to participate in the rebuilding process.”

According to VOA News, if international assistance is not forthcoming, Sir Ronald said Antigua and Barbuda will marshal the resources it has.

“The reason I want to stress that is I don’t want the idea created that Antigua is closed down because tourism is what we live by, and the best way people can help us get over the crisis … is to help Antigua to continue to earn, because Antigua needs to earn in order to help Barbuda rebuild.

“The worst thing that can happen is for people to confuse the devastation on Barbuda with what’s going on in Antigua,” he said. “Antigua is now the sole bread winner for both islands, we need our tourists to continue to come.”

TIME magazine has reported that the cost of rebuilding Barbuda could be as much as $300 million.

“We require probably about $250-300 million,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne told the magazine in an interview in Antigua on Tuesday. “The extent of the damage is beyond the means of these islands … Global human cooperation is an absolute necessity.”

Antigua and Barbuda was one of the first places in the Caribbean where Hurricane Irma made landfall with winds of up to 185 mph.

According to reports, more than 90 per cent of the structures on Barbuda have been damaged or destroyed by Irma’s fury.

“Its infrastructure is in pieces and its population of 1,800 are now homeless and scattered around a number of shelters across Antigua, which escaped the worst of the storm’s impact,” TIME magazine reported. “Rebuilding homes and infrastructure could take at least six months, officials said.”

IMAGE:Damage left after Hurricane Irma hit Barbuda. (AP)

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Barbuda is a natural disaster and a humanitarian crisis, says ambassador

From Caribbean News Now

WASHINGTON, USA — Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador Sir Ronald Sanders briefed members of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) on Tuesday, September 12, 2017, in Washington, DC, on the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma on Barbuda, which was “decimated and destroyed”, describing the situation on the island as a natural disaster and a humanitarian crisis.

“For the first time in 300 years, there is not a living person on Barbuda. A society of people who lived for generations on that island had to be plucked away from all that they own, all that they know, all that defined them as a people,” Sanders said, noting that the government was compelled to evacuate the entire population of the island to Antigua, with the help of the Venezuelan government, which was the first responder to the disaster.

There is no potable water, no electricity and such buildings that are left are pitiful wrecks, incapable of providing shelter and dangerous to enter, he continued.

Hurricane Irma, with winds gusting to 220 mph, overwhelmed the island of Barbuda in size, strength and ferocity.

Sanders played a video to the Permanent Council illustrating the devastation on Barbuda.

He noted that the population of the larger island of Antigua increased by three percent, suddenly, unexpectedly and with no opportunity for planning.

“No country can suddenly absorb an increase of three percent of its population,” Sanders said, noting that those evacuated included 500 schoolchildren for whom places must now be found so that their education would not be interrupted.

He noted that a massive rebuilding programme in Barbuda that is sustainable and resilient to further disasters has to be devised and implemented, the early cost estimates of which are in the region of US$250 million, which is 20 percent of Antigua and Barbuda’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“It is not a task that my government and the people of my country will shirk, but we are realistic enough to know we can never accomplish it alone,” Sanders said, noting that several foreign governments have come forward with offers of help, including member countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Venezuela, Chile and Canada.

“We are not asking the international community for help because we want, we are asking for help because we need,” Sanders said, echoing the words of Antigua and Barbuda Prime minister Gaston Browne.

“Barbuda is a natural disaster but it is also a humanitarian crisis, which cries out for a humanitarian response,” Sanders concluded.

In an earlier interview with Voice of America, Sanders urged the United States, irrespective of any financial aid, to make good on a World Trade Organization (WT) adjudicated award related to internet gambling, which his government has calculated to be worth about $270 million.

The dispute, which dates from 2004, remains unresolved despite a declaration by the United States Trade Representative’s office in July 2015 that the two sides had met and that “both governments have undertaken to continue the discussion at an early date” with a view to reaching a final settlement.

“We are now in this crisis, if ever they want to settle this with us, now is the time,” Sanders said. “We are a small island state, we don’t have the vast territory of the United States, nor the huge infrastructure that you have, but the infrastructure which we have is important to us and to our survival.”

IMAGE: Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador Sir Ronald Sanders briefs the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) on Tuesday, September 12, 2017, in Washington, DC, on the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma on Barbuda

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