British Territories Cry out to UK

HAMILTON, Bermuda (CMC) | Bermuda’s Premier David Burt has urged the United Kingdom Government to “fulfil its obligations” to Britain’s overseas territories in the Caribbean following the “unprecedented devastation” caused by powerful Hurricane Irma during its deadly rampage across the region last week. Acting in his capacity as president of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (OTA), Burt said in a statement that there was “an urgent need for health and social welfare support which must be met now”.

The statement late Sunday follows heavy criticism over the UK Government’s response to the storm that has decimated parts of the region, flattening buildings, cutting off communications, and leaving more than 20 people dead.

Three British territories — Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos — were all badly damaged by Irma. Last Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May upped the country’s aid package for the region to £32 million (US$42.1 million). UK Defence Minister Michael Fallon said that hundreds of troops, engineers and other additional resources would also be provided. Fallon maintained that the UK response, for which he is responsible, had been “as good as anybody else’s”.

Burt, who became premier of this British Overseas Territory after the Progressive Labour Party defeated the incumbent One Bermuda Alliance in July’s general election, said that while the OTA welcomed the commitment from the UK Government in providing some immediate resources, it questioned “the adequacy of its response” in other areas, including a regional reconstruction fund, and the twoweek wait for the arrival of HMS Ocean.

“We note that the House of Commons Foreign Affairs and International Development Select Committees have rai these issues in terms as well,” he said. In addition to committing immediate resources, Burt also called on the UK Government to “examine and develop the long-term economic self-sustainability of the Overseas Territories” “Our thoughts and prayers are fully focused on all affected by the current severe storm patterns across the Caribbean,” Burt said.

“The people of Britain’s Caribbean territories are courageous and resilient, but they face unprecedented devastation. Now, more than ever, we need the United Kingdom to fulfil its obligations by providing comprehensive and lasting support to ensure a sustainable future.” Burt said last week that Bermuda was ready to send soldiers on a mercy mission to badly damaged islands in the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, Bermuda is keeping a wary eye on Hurricane Jose, which was around 600 miles south of the island on Sunday night. The storm’s closest point in the next 72 hours is expected to be around 430 miles to the south-southwest of Bermuda this afternoon, according to the Bermuda Weather Service (BWS).

Yesterday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that a weakening Jose was expected to linger over the Western Atlantic for several days.