My fellow Virgin Islanders, residents and visitors, as you are all aware, on Wednesday July 12 into the early hours of Thursday, July 13, the Territory was impacted by a strong tropical wave which resulted in heavy rainfall, flooding of some roadways and landslides along some slopes.
The reality is that we are in an ‘above normal’ Atlantic hurricane season and we can expect to see further weather systems developing, so we must be ready. We cannot let our guards down, even if it is not a hurricane or tropical storm, the impacts can be just as damaging.
I have been informed that we can expect other tropical waves in the coming days as many are already developing in the Atlantic.
Two waves are currently being monitored by forecasters; one is located to the south east of the British Virgin Islands with a possibility of some rainfall into this weekend. The other wave is in the Atlantic and it is estimated to be close to the BVI by Friday next week, with the potential to produce similar conditions.
Forecasters and disaster management officials are constantly monitoring these systems and will advise and guide us accordingly. We must fully understand that these weather events can be unpredictable and coupled with the changes in the climate that is occurring both locally and globally, we can expect an intensification of the impacts brought on by these systems.
For example, the recent rainfalls, we are told was the convergence of two separate systems that by themselves were unpredictable in the manner in which we were affected. As a people we must take ownership of our own state of preparedness and pay close attention to weather systems that are forming.
The events on July 12 and 13, brought again to the forefront an issue which we have been speaking about for years—the careless disposal of garbage in our ghuts and our drains. This is significant because the drainage when blocked causes overflow of water and flooding in some areas that can be disastrous compared to how it could be if we allow the drains and ghuts to function normally.
So we must be prepared, we must do our best to desist from these unhealthy practices that can result in significant economic losses for the Territory. We as a people must work together to reduce the effects that flooding can have on our Territory. This can start with us focusing on being more diligent in cleaning up our surrounding areas, paying much more attention to our environment and generally keeping the BVI clean and beautiful.
We know what impact storms and hurricanes can have on us; we have experienced this in the past and there have been significant investments to improve infrastructure, create greater awareness and build resilience within our communities. As a matter of fact, I took a tour of the island of Tortola yesterday after the rains and it was evident that the infrastructural work that has been done through the [Caribbean Development Bank] CDB project have been very well executed and have served us well. But, there is much work to be done, and some are currently ongoing and if these initiatives are to be successful we must take personal responsibility for our actions and continue to support the preparedness efforts that are needed during this time of the year.
Hazards from these tropical events can cause damage to the physical structures, flooding to our homes and significant losses in equipment from the type of lightning strikes that we saw during the past event.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for us to be more vigilant. Let us pay attention to our neighbours and those who are vulnerable who may need a helping hand to get ready this hurricane season. Specifically, we must take time to:
- Trim overhanging trees
- Pay attention to cistern overflows
- Clear roof gutters
- Remove loose items from around our homes, and
- Stock up on what you will need in the event that we are affected by other tropical systems
I cannot emphasise enough that we must continue to be our brothers’ keepers. My health and your health are important to each of us, we are our brothers’ keepers; prevention is better than c ure. And so as Acting Premier, I say to you, preparedness is the key to reduce the impacts from these hazards.
I encourage you to monitor the Department of Disaster Management’s website [www.bviddm.com] and Facebook and Twitter pages ‘BVIDDM’ for regular updates and advise. Ensure that you tune in to the local radio and television stations to get updates on weather conditions. Listen out for activities that are being planned for your communities and get involved. Support the ‘One BVI’ initiative that we promote and be ready this hurricane season.
Let us all be safe, let us all be careful, and let us all be vigilant.
God bless you and God continue to bless these Virgin Islands.
I thank you!