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Nowhere to turn

A Bajan-Canadian couple is tonight appealing to the Barbadian authorities to come to their immediate rescue, claiming they are now at their wits end with nowhere to turn, a week after falling victim to Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

“Send a gosh darn plane already! This happened a week ago and we are sitting here and nobody has sent us help to get us out,” said a frustrated Glenna Smith, who had travelled to Tortola for business two Saturdays ago and was joined by her Barbadian husband Romeo Addison for a bit of added pleasure as the couple, who reside at Rockley in Christ Church, was celebrating their wedding anniversary and was happy for the opportunity to enjoy a “mini-getaway” in Tortola.

Today Glenna Smith and her husband Romeo Addison’s hopes of escaping the BVI were further shattered after word came that an “evacuation flight” that had been arranged for all Barbadians in the BVI was diverted to another storm battered territory.

Lo and behold, Hurricane Irma would drop by to ensure that their anniversary celebration would have anything but a happy ending.

In fact it has turned out to be nothing short of a recurring nightmare for them since Irma struck the BVI last Wednesday leaving at least five dead and a trail of untold destruction.

“We probably had about a 45 minute quiet time when we were in the eye of the hurricane and then when the back wall passed and it was about three or four hours of just the noises, the wind.

“The building was shaking, the bed was shaking, the walls were shaking. It ripped off staircases, railings, it flipped cars, it pushed boats out of the water. It ripped the roof off of our hotel,” Smith recalled, adding that “there isn’t a tree that is standing on the whole island.

“I couldn’t even tell you how many cars are flipped over, damaged, mashed up beyond belief. I have yet to see a structure that doesn’t have some damage on it. It doesn’t matter if it was a nice, large commercial property or a small little house, the devastation is so widespread,” she said.

Up to now, residents still do not have access to electricity or running water and telephones, Wi-Fi and other forms of communication are virtually non existent, except at the airport in Tortola where Barbados TODAY managed to connect briefly with Smith this afternoon via WhatsApp, as she was seemingly waiting in vain, and not for the first time this week, for news on a flight back to Barbados.

“We have been trying to get flights home and they keep getting cancelled. We had a return ticket with LIAT. They have since cancelled our return and said they will give us a credit for a year and it is up to us to make our own way home,” a distressed Smith told Barbados TODAY.

Today, her hopes were further shattered after word came that an “evacuation flight” that had been arranged for all Barbadians in the BVI was diverted to another storm battered territory.

“When we got here, we were told to wait . . . . There was a CARICOM soldier who told us they would come back to us with an update, but when the soldier came back at 3 [p.m.], he told us the plane got diverted to Saint Martin because there were worse crises there and that no plane was coming and that we were to leave the airport, [but] we have nowhere to stay, we are pretty much out of money and the [airport is the] safest place right now because the prison is busted open, there are shootings, there are rapes,” she said.

Since the passage of the storm, there has been a heavy police presence on the streets of Road Town. The British Navy has also arrived to assist in the restoration of order following reports that “the whole town was looted within the first 24 hours”.

A 6 p.m. to 6.a.m. curfew is currently in effect and Smith confirmed that no one was allowed out, as the Brits control the roads and try to restore safety.

“Here they [the British] have taken over control of the airport in Tortola and they are only allowing disaster relief flights, and as of today they are starting to have some emergency evacuations,” she said.

However, much to her disdain, the majority of those leaving today were American citizens while she and a “handful” of other Barbadians were seemingly not even being afforded a safe haven at the airport.

In her frustration, Smith complained that one official had actually told them “you are just going to have to go sit in the parking lot overnight”, to which she exclaimed: “Really! we are human beings.”

With anger noticeable in her voice, Smith also complained about Barbados’ handling of the crisis situation.

“I’m seeing now the third American plane getting loaded taking their citizens out, so it is not that it is not possible, it is that our Government is not doing anything,” she said.

When contacted this evening Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean requested that the information on the stranded couple be emailed to her Permanent Secretary Nigel Cox for his attention.

Barbados TODAY also reached out to Director of the Regional Security System Errington Sherland who reported that an RSS team would be headed into Tortola around 1 p.m. tomorrow to pick up the stranded Barbadians.
kaymarjordan@barbadostoday.bb