- Written by FREEMAN ROGERS
- Published: 21 September 2017
When the outer bands of Hurricane Maria arrived on Tuesday afternoon, the roof of the Multi-purpose Sports Complex still had a gaping hole that had been ripped two weeks earlier by Hurricane Irma.
But work was under way to fix it.
Amid ear-splitting crashes, a crew from Meridian Construction was atop the building knocking down battered metal sheeting and replacing it with plywood, while volunteers from Rotary and the United Kingdom organisations Serve On and Team Rubicon assisted from the ground and did other work to secure the building.
They finished just in time, and the effort may have saved lives.
“It held up,” Shelter Manager Rashurma Lyons said with a grin on Wednesday afternoon.
The hole, which exposed one end of the complex to rain and wind, had been a major concern for Ms. Lyons since her shelter was relocated from the St. George’s Episcopal Church last week.
And Hurricane Maria brought the biggest crowd she’s seen yet.
“Persons started coming in like crazy looking for shelter — families, mothers with babies,” she said. “We had like about 30 persons coming in at the shelter yesterday just for the night.”
That was in addition to the 40 people who were already there, for a total of about 70.
Even with the repair work, however, she was nervous during the storm, particularly since the crew didn’t have time to repair another smaller hole in one corner of the complex’s roof.
“It was very loud and windy: I must tell you that,” she said. “It lasted long, it was slow. It was just loud.”
Around 4 a.m., she began to fear that the roof would blow off.
“I got up and I looked at it and I was like, ‘No, I need to evacuate persons now,’” she said.
Moving quickly, she led families with babies from the gym floor into concrete rooms around the edges of the complex. Senior citizens were moved next, followed by other occupants who hadn’t already relocated themselves.
But although rain still fell through the smaller hole in the roof, the repair work held and the shelter proved safe.
On Wednesday afternoon after the storm, members of the UK organisations Team Rubicon and Serve On visited the shelter to check on the repairs. Ellie Mackay, Team Rubicon’s public information officer, was pleased with what they saw.
“We worked right the way up until our curfew until we had to be inside,” she said. “Right up until the last second, these guys were hammering in plywood; they were securing the windows around the first floor, and they worked with Unite BVI and some local roofing contractors to get over three tons of plywood onto the roof and nailed down, into place and tarpaulin over the top of it. And they successfully sealed that roof.”
Ms. Lyons said she isn’t sure how long the building will be used as a shelter, but many of its occupants have nowhere else to go.