Hurricane Maria has added to the extensive damage on the British overseas territory of Turks and Caicos Islands , the Foreign Office has said, after the region was pummelled by a second major storm in two weeks.
The weather front barrelled across the Caribbean over the past few days, claiming the lives of at least 19 people, with many others missing.
A British man is among the dead, with his body yet to be recovered, after a boat capsized off Puerto Rico near Vieques, as Maria unleashed devastation. The US coastguard in Miami said a Royal Navy helicopter hoisted a woman and two children from the overturned vessel on Thursday, after a distress call was sent from the boat.
Maria battered Turks and Caicos Islands with winds of up to 125 mph on Friday, as the storm continued on its path to roll off the east coast of the US. The Foreign Office has advised: “Hurricane Maria has now passed TCI, but it added to the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Irma .”
Other overseas territories, including the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla heavily hit by Irma, have escaped much of the wrath of Maria, with Montserrat also faring better than expected.
Chris Austin, head of the UK taskforce, said the region had been “relatively lucky so far” with the impact of Hurricane Maria, with the “devastating exception of Dominica”. Initial reports from Dominica suggest large-scale devastation, with 90% of buildings damaged or destroyed by the storm which made landfall with the island on Monday.
Also hitting Puerto Rico, it was the strongest storm in more than 80 years to sweep across the country – flattening homes and plunging the island into darkness after taking down power lines.
Gus Jaspert, the governor of the British Virgin Islands, said despite suffering heavy damage and devastation as a result of Irma, they were now moving from relief to recovery, and that most of the British Virgin Islands were affected in slightly different ways. He said the island of Anegada was a low-lying community that did not get as much wind damage, with Virgin Gorda heavily impacted by Irma.
Jaspert said the small island of Jost Van Dyke, home to just 300 people, had been heavily devastated.
After Maria he said there was a problem with the storm surge on the west end of Tortola, which knocked the road out, and that quite a lot of houses got flooded as a result of the heavy rain.
“A big priority for us is trying to get back to normal as soon as possible. Progress is being made but there are huge, huge challenges when we’ve not got electricity and water everywhere,” Jaspert said.
“On financial services we took some early decisions, led by the premier who runs that part of government, to secure the industry and keep that going, and work out how that can operate from different locations, but still have BVI as the hub for it.
“We have a very strong financial services commission here, which is leading the way on good regulation – so all of that is in place and BVI is open for business, which is excellent. But then more widely, we prioritised trying to restore the functions of normal life in a way. We got the supermarkets open, we got the port open and are getting supplies in, getting the banks opened and well stocked.
“So people can, while there are lots of challenges for everyone, start to feel as though life is getting back to normal again.”
He said bouncing back was going to be a challenge and that the recovery would take months, but there were high hopes for opening for a tourist season soon.