Preliminary results of an ongoing needs assessment suggest that about half of the buildings in Huntums Ghut are uninhabitable after Hurricane Irma, Chief Planner Greg Adams said this week.

Though this percentage might not be reflected across the entire Virgin Islands, he added, it provides an overview of the state of one of the territory’s more densely populated areas.

“That gives up a pretty clear indication as to how many people heave been displaced,” Mr. Adams said in an interview aired Monday morning on ZBVI Radio. “Now whether those folks are still in the territory, in shelters, or staying with friends or family, that’s another survey.”

The government’s ongoing needs assessment — which includes distributing survey forms to residents — will be conducted across the territory in the coming days, according to the chief planner.

“The work that we’re doing — one of the reasons it’s so urgent is there’s need for shelter in many, many areas across the territory,” Mr. Adams explained.

Going forward

The chief planner advised that all structures need to be carefully assessed after Irma, even if they don’t show visible damage.

“Don’t be too hasty int he rush to repair and rebuild,” he added. “I think part of that assessment needs to be ‘What did we do before Irma that could be done better post-Irma.’”

Once structures are deemed uninhabitable, he said, they don’t necessarily have to be destroyed.

“In some cases, the structure may still be there, but the enclosure of the building would be gone, so some assessment on that level would have to be done, and that’s where homeowners and property owners would have to come in to make those detailed levels of assessment,” he said.

Interim standards

Mr. Adams also said that he was asked to help devise “interim standards” for rebuilding so that “people are not just putting things back the way they were but they have some sense of how to improve on what was.”

He explained that he will be working with the Public Works Department to create those standards, which will be used until the implementation of the new Building Code that Premier Dr. Orlando Smith has promised.

Mr. Adams also said he met with his staff at the Town and Country Planning Department last week to discuss shifting job roles.

“A lot of the fieldwork personnel will now become part of our teams that go out and do this assessment,” he said. “That will help us to do it a lot quicker.”

Others could assist as well, he added.

“I believe also there’s an opportunity for the wider public service to help us with this, in some of the other agencies where their services may be not as essential in this particular point in time,” he said. “They also can be trained to help us get this assessment done a bit quicker.”

CDEMA help

In carrying out the assessment, the TCPD staff and public officers in the Social Development Department and the Ministry of Health and Social Development have had the assistance of Sylvan McIntyre, the leader of the CARICOM Disaster Assessment Team for the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. McIntyre arrived in the territory on Sept. 10 in order to lead a “rapid needs assessment process,” and he was subsequently asked to stay on, he said in a video released by the Department of Disaster Management.

“The emergency phase is over and you need to make effective use of your resources,” he said.

The current assessment, he explained, will help identify those in the greatest need and those who will need support for an extended time.

“It would bring out the reality that the country needs to recover, but it needs to prioritise,” he said. “Priority has to be done through assessment, and this is what we are doing.”