The night Barbuda died: how Hurricane Irma created a Caribbean ghost township
Two and a half months after Barbuda was battered by 185 mph breezes, the island remains ruined and largely uninhabitated. Now locals are questioning if people will ever return
Walking the street of the small Caribbean island of Barbuda on a Friday afternoon, you are likely to see more goats than humans.
Dogs, cats and horses, all of which wander freely about the island now that fences are down, also seem to outnumber people. The streets are empty and the houses- at the least the ones still standing- are abandoned. The island is like a ghost town.
Barbuda, which covers only 62 square miles, was the first to feel the force of Hurricane Irma. When the blizzard stimulated landfall on the night of 6 September, it made Barbuda at about 185 mph. A two-year-old boy succumbed and an estimated 90% of properties were damaged.
Two days later, dreading Barbuda would be hit again, this time by Hurricane Jose, the “ministers ” ordered an evacuation. All 1,800 residents were ferried to Antigua, Barbuda’s much larger sister island, which suffered only minor damage.
Jose passed without incident, but the government warned that diseases caused by stagnant water and issues with vermin had rendered it unsafe for habitation, and it was three weeks before residents were allowed to return. Even now, weeks after the evacuation order was lifted, this island is eerily deserted.
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