Category 5 Hurricane Irma ripped through the Virgin Islands (VI) during the daylight hours of Wednesday, September 6, 2017. It caused widespread destruction, and killed a total of four people.
Estimates, according to Dr Wheatley, put the immediate damage in the region of $2.3 billion and that many others lost their lives indirectly afterwards, due to physical and emotional causes.
The Premier said history will reflect that in the aftermath of Irma and a second Category five hurricane, Maria, just two weeks later, the “indomitable spirit and resilience” of the Virgin Islands people burst forward.
“With our limited resources, some help from neighbours and friends and our strength that comes from our faith in God, we cleaned up the debris, restored vital infrastructure, and started rebuilding our homes and our lives.”
Premier Wheatley said the Virgin Islands has continued the recovery process over the past five years, despite the interruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, by delivering recovery projects financed by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Recovery and Rehabilitation Loan and “our own financial resources.”
He said he was also very pleased that many of these recovery projects have been completed by Virgin Islands contractors who have done an outstanding job with the support of the Recovery and Development Agency (RDA), under the leadership of Mr Anthony S. McMaster.
Premier Wheatley also said it was the VI’s financial services industry that sustained government revenues following Hurricane Irma, as the tourism industry was halted.
“Confidence in our financial services industry remained high and provided revenues to carry us through.
“We see the wisdom of our predecessors when they chose to establish our financial services industry in the 1980s,” Dr Wheatley stated, adding that there is still much to do with regards to hurricane recovery.
The VI's financial services industry continues to come under attack, including from the United Kingdom.