Looting and violence terrifying UK expats on British Virgin Islands

Published:  12 Sep at 6 PM
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British expats struggling to get their lives back from Hurricane Irma’s catastrophic attack on the British Virgin Islands are now facing a state of anarchy.

The hard-hit island chain is British Overseas Territory and home to communities of expat residents, many thousands of whom are struggling to survive in the aftermath of the storm. Winds of 185kms per hour have laid waste to property, schools and businesses, and residents are now facing violence and looting by men armed with knives and guns. British troops and recovery experts are belatedly arriving on the islands, and a Royal Navy vessel has docked.

Many inmates who escaped when a prison on Tortola Island was destroyed during the storm have been ransacking local stores, banks and businesses as well as attacking residents. Authorities have now declared a curfew between 6 pm and 6 am, and are still rounding up missing prisoners. Five people are known to have died during the hurricane, with more deaths expected as first responders reach out to totally devastated areas. Generators are the only source of electricity, with fuel running out fast.

Lawyer and Tortola resident Sarah Thompson told the media the situation is horrific as the island is now unfit to live on. Most residents, she said, are attempting to find ways to leave, but many more boats and planes are needed to evacuate all those with nothing left. She added some evacuations prioritising the injured and most vulnerable have taken place, but much more help is desperately needed. Survivors are helping each other by sharing the little they have, but drinkable water is in short supply and raw sewage is everywhere.

Criticism over the British government’s slow reaction to the tragedy is being heard both in the UK and on the islands, especially given the increasing reports of lawlessness. Other European countries with territories in the region have responded swiftly, with the Netherlands immediately dispatching troops to deal with civil unrest and violence as well as helping with finding those still trapped in the wreckage of their homes.
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