- Written by The BVI Beacon
- Published: 19 September 2017
The Virgin Islands recently received support from the Liberal Democrats Party after its annual party conference in Bournemouth, England this week.
Benito Wheatley, the VI United Kingdom and European Union representative, briefed party leaders on Hurricane Irma's damage and the potential impact of Hurricane Maria, which is expected to reach the VI in the coming days.
Mr. Wheatley stressed the need for an economic reconstruction package backed by the UK.
He outlined the key issues VI residents are currently facing;
• Hurricane Irma destroyed or severely damaged more than 80 percent of all structures on the islands; many residents have lost their homes or roofs, windows and doors
• There is no running water or electricity, and communications are very limited
• UK has mobilised military, police and other personnel and relief supplies on the ground
• Distribution of food and water remain a challenge and continued relief will be needed soon
• Rain in recent days has caused flooding in already vulnerable and exposed communities; continued concerns about the potential for waterborne diseases
The VI representative briefed a number of high-ranking Liberal Democrat officials, including the Rt. Vince Cable MP, Rt. Simon Hughes MP, Rt. Tom Brake MP, Rt. Baroness Northover, Lord Campbell, Baroness Randerson, Baroness Smith and Tim Farron MP.
“I sincerely thank the Liberal Democrats for their support during this time of crisis,” Mr. Wheatley said. “The people of the BVI continue to be incredibly grateful for the UK’s assistance, and we’re doing all we can here to ensure close lines of communication are maintained while we all work to build back quickly and build back better and deliver a resilient recovery. We will endeavour to keep the party updated on how this recovery is progressing.”
The group also discussed the reconstruction package for the VI needed to rebuild over long-term.
“It is important for us to continue to discuss the UK government’s commitments to the rebuilding of the BVI, both in terms of financial and technical support with all representatives,” Mr. Wheatley said. “I raised the importance of not only rebuilding critical infrastructure, but also for the need to support our financial services sector and tourism industry with the Liberal Democrats. They understood how ‘patch and mend’ is not enough for our islands – the safety of our people, the sustainability of our economy and securing value for money for the UK demands investment in better buildings and more resilient critical infrastructure.”