St Barth after Irma, by Pati

Posted on October 05 2017

 

Pati, in an open letter you published on your personal Facebook account, you wrote that Irma literally « pulverized» you. Could you describe the state of the island in the aftermath of the hurricane?

-

The island was seriously destroyed by Irma, its vegetation completely decimated, and many homes had lost roofs.  The strong winds and the sea were very destructive to us. Certain beaches like Lorient and St Jean have luckily been cleaned up. We had to do serious clearing of all the roads for them to become operational once again.

After the hurricane, there was an immediate sense of chaos and loss. No electricity, no running water, no gas, meager provisions of food, and no fresh food. No transportation and no schools. Everything became complicated. It was very difficult to work through the chaos, but we stood strong together. It has been an important life lesson for us all, and we are growing from it, learning to live « without » and learning to stand united.  Every day has become a new challenge. We have learnt the true meaning of patience, tolerance, empathy, helping and hope.

-

-

 Now that we must think of rebuilding, how is the St Barth community getting organized ? What is the general mood ?

 -

The general atmosphere is of highs and lows, which creates a certain synergy: everyone helping each other. In our exchanges, we hear the words «alive », « still standing », « courage ». There is an incredible solidarity, a very positive energy and a mind-blowing dynamism.  The locals are working relentlessly to rebuild our infrastructure to jump start our touristic season.  Groups are getting together to pick up the debris, to prune the ruined trees and to begin to recultivate our vegetation.

-

-

Has Hurricane Irma had a demographic and structural impact on the island ?

 -

Many people have left because they have lost their homes, their jobs. Many cars have been destroyed or ruined. There is less traffic. However, although the vegetation was destroyed by the wind and the salt, it is already beginning to see new growth thanks to our nourishing tropical weather. Unfortunately most of our palm trees and coconut trees have been decimated and we need to work on replanting them. We are feeding the turtles, the iguanas and the birds with fruit until nature carries its own fruit once again. The beaches have changed, and have actually become wider and even more beautiful. Although many establishments on the water have suffered greatly from the hurricane’s passage, the hard work of the community is beginning to show. The island is slowly but steadily returning to its original state.

-

For all those who would like to help St Barth and support those most in need, what would you recommend?

 -

The economy of St Barth is fundamentally linked to tourism. For this reason, it is very important that visitors return to St Barth as soon as possible.  St Barth is doing everything in its power to welcome tourists again very soon.

Otherwise there have been many homegrown initiatives to fund raise. For those who want to help from afar, here are a few ways :

The Coral Restoration Fund of St Barth : they do fantastic work year round.

The Artists of St Barth : They are working on a very interesting project to help replant St Barth. More information to come.

A fund has also been established by the community of St Barth which will be accepting donations as of October :  www.stbarthfondation.com