- Written by AMANDA ULRICH
- Published: 19 October 2017
A Rotarian positioned a police officer between a large stack of blue tarps and a growing line of people on Friday, hoping to maintain order.
“Stand here: I don’t want anybody rushing them,” she warned him.
Rotarians and the United Kingdom organisation Team Rubicon handed out roughly 250 tarpaulins at the Festival Village Grounds to Road Town residents after giving a brief demonstration on how to attach them to a compromised roof.
Over the weekend, hundreds more were distributed in other parts of Tortola. Since Irma, about 3,000 tarps have been given out by various donors to a population struggling to secure permanent housing, officials said.
In a third and final situation report, the Department of Disaster Management reported that 4,240 homes were damaged in some way, and 592 of those were destroyed. The plastic tarpaulins are meant to serve as a temporary solution to the housing problem.
“The effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria have resulted in a number of houses losing roofs,” Governor Gus Jaspert said in an update Friday. “As a quick temporary fix, tarpaulins have been received by a number of donors and these are being distributed.”
‘Shelter to home’
In a press conference on Tuesday, Rotarians outlined their longer-term strategy to getting residents back in their homes — called the “shelter to home” project.
In order to help the remaining shelter occupants (as well as other displaced people) get back to their residences, the government is supplying materials like plywood, lumber, gravel and galvanised roofing, while Rotary is devoting funds for labour costs.
“It’s a powerful combination and it has enabled us to begin the process of putting a number of roofs back on,” said Lorna Smith, past president of the Rotary Club of Tortola.
But before construction can start, assessments need to be made to evaluate the structural integrity of the building.
“One of the things that we do not want to do is just go ahead and — after the magnitude of the hurricane that we had — go out and just put roofs back on. We are not contractors; we are not experts in the area,” said Elvis “Juggy” Harrigan, assistant governor for Rotary District 7020.
Residents who need help rebuilding should first register with their district representative, after which Rotary will visit the property with officials from the Public Works Department, Mr. Harrigan said.
“We have to emphasise that it will take a little longer, but it is for your own safety and we want to be responsible for what we are doing,” he said.
In the meantime, Rotary is also handing out shelter boxes to those who have lost their homes. Twenty-three of the kits — which typically include items like heavy-duty tents, building tools and water purification equipment — have already been delivered to Jost Van Dyke, and one has been set up on Tortola.
Shelter boxes could also be used to house linesmen brought in to restore power.
“Now 24 families of three to six [people] are now in individual living conditions as opposed to camping out in grounds or in someone’s home,” said Joseph Ryan, a Rotary community services director. “They’re in an individualised living space and have a bit of freedom and a bit of dignity to their living situation.”