The U.S. Virgin Islands recently released its first-year progress report on their recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
This report was issued by the Government of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), with the support of Witt O’Brien’s, its lead recovery consultant.
In September 2017, these two Category 5 hurricanes devastated USVI. The territory lost power and communications, roads were washed out or blocked, and more than half the homes were damaged, leaving residents unsheltered. The economy came to a near standstill. In total, damage to the territory’s housing, infrastructure and economy has been estimated to be $11 billion.
Key achievements during this first year of recovery include the following:
- Power was restored within 100 days of the storms
- Airports and cruise ship terminals reopened within 60 days of the storms
- Public water distribution resumed within one month of the storms
- Almost 1 million cubic yards of debris were collected within 6 months of the storms
- Emergency repairs have been made to over 5,000 homes
- Critical healthcare services were restored through emergency repairs and temporary modular centers
- Students returned for the 2018-19 school year in repaired school buildings and new modular classrooms
- First response communication systems were restored, private sector voice and data providers re-established most of the territory’s pre-storm capabilities
- Tourism has rebounded quickly; reconstruction jobs and new industry are contributing to economic recovery
- A key part of the recovery program is to enhance USVI’s resilience to future disasters, through hazard mitigation and infrastructure hardening
- The Federal government has committed over $8 billion in recovery assistance, from Homeland Security (FEMA), Housing and Urban Development and over a dozen other agencies
“As this report demonstrates, we have made outstanding progress over the past year, including the courageous initial response to the disaster by our residents, local first responders, businesses and non-government organizations, and our Federal partners,” said USVI Governor Kenneth Mapp. “But rebuilding will not be easy, and a complete recovery will take years as we work to completely rebuild some of the most critical aspects of our infrastructure. An incredible amount of planning and coordination continues to take place as we prepare our Territory for the vast construction and rehabilitation ahead.”
“Virgin Islanders should be extremely proud of their recovery just one year after being hit with back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes,” added Brad Gair, Witt O’Brien’s lead executive for USVI recovery. “Having led many large-scale disaster recovery efforts, including Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Hurricane Sandy in New York City, I am extremely confident that the Virgin Islands will seize this transformational opportunity to build true resilience to future storms.”