Could Hurricane Irma rock Westminster?

CHAOS: Much of the British Virgin
Islands has been flattened; and
(inset) the Royal Navy delivering
CHAOS: Much of the British Virgin Islands has been flattened; and (inset) the Royal Navy delivering supplies

By Amit Roy


PRIME Minister Theresa May needs to be ultra careful. People are out to get her – not just Labour, but Brexit bovver boys in her own party. She managed to survive the Gren­fell Tower tragedy, which Labour tried to turn into a political crisis with the aim of toppling her. Now Grenfell is off the front pages but there is a risk that Hurricane Ir­ma, causing devastation in the British Virgin Islands, could become her Katrina moment.

For most people in this country, hurricanes – illustrated by spiralling clouds on television – are normally far off acts of nature that peri­odically lash coastal regions in America or the Caribbean. But Irma has the potential to make landfall in Westminster because those suffering include Brits in the British Virgin Is­lands. Her government is already being ac­cused of doing too little, too late and not an­ticipating a well trailed crisis.

Again, most people might not have been aware previously of these British territories but rather like Jamal Malik in Slumdog Mil­lionaire, I knew of the British Virgin Islands for a personal reason. My lawyer friend, Rich­ard Parsons, who is settled there with his wife, Janet, shared digs with me for a couple of years at university.

He responded to my email with a desperate SOS: “We all in the BVI need assistance. Can you please try and get us some publicity so that people in the UK, particularly the government, pay attention to the huge prob­lems here?”

The government claims that some 500 Brit­ish troops have been sent to the region, with 120 stationed in the British Virgin Islands. Fifty police are also being deployed there to establish law and order.

Richard tells a different story: “Basically, al­most all infrastructure has been demolished,” he says. “Communications are minimal.”

He goes on: “We can only send this email by sitting outside the phone company office in town. There are no radio or TV stations work­ing in the BVI. The electricity distribution system is all blown down and must take months or even a year to repair.

“The government admin building has most windows blown out and most of the interior is wrecked. There is looting everywhere. We have heard no message from the new UK gov­ernor, Augustus Jaspert, or the BVI premier, Dr Orlando Smith. This is in marked contrast to the apparently organised disaster response in the USVI.”

Richard adds: “There is one British naval vessel offshore, but we have seen no sailors coming ashore to help. Rumour on the street has it there is another ship coming?”

It may be that British troops will make their presence felt in the next few days, but already five people are reported to have died in the British Virgin Islands.

Who knows what might happen if the winds of change blow through Downing Street?