Description of the disaster
In early September 2017, Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean islands of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British and United States Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Martin/Sint Maarten. Irma, which was classified as a category 5 hurricane, was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, with wind speeds of more than 185 miles per hour (298 km/hour) and torrential rainfall. Irma struck Barbuda in the early morning hours of 6 September 2017. The hurricane severely impacted the affected islands’ livelihoods, housing and infrastructure and basic services such as health, telecommunication, electricity, water, sewage and waste systems, agriculture and fisheries on the affected islands. The impact on Barbuda was particularly severe as the eye of the hurricane passed directly over the island; eighty percent of Barbuda’s buildings were reported to have been destroyed or severely damaged, and the island was deemed uninhabitable, as all resident households (HHs) on Barbuda were seriously affected by the hurricane. The government of Antigua and Barbuda evacuated all Barbuda’s inhabitants to the neighbouring island of Antigua, where most were placed in government-run collective centres or hosted by relatives.
A year after the hurricane, limited banking services and access to water and electricity across much of the island have prevented many Barbudan families from returning to the island. Additionally, the schools on Barbuda did not reopen until 5 February 2018, and the return of the population was further complicated by irregular transportation between Antigua and Barbuda. In Saint Kitts and Nevis, life returned to normal for most of the population right after the hurricane. Initially, it was feared that Irma had caused serious damage in Saint Kitts and Nevis; however, subsequent assessments showed that the impact was minor, with only two homes severely damaged or destroyed. Building on the IFRC Framework for Community Resilience, the National Societies and communities in Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Kitts and Nevis will benefit from activities designed to assist them to anticipate better, prepare for, reduce the impact, cope with and recover from the shocks and stresses of disasters.