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Ballard’s response to Hurricane Irma – September 2017

September 13, 2017
Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma and Ballard School

Ed: The Ballard community raised over £1000 from their recent charity fundraiser

We have been flying flags of Caribbean islands on our flagpole this week so as to remind us of the devastation in that part of the world owing to Hurricane Irma. Yesterday two significant things happened: during the day we had a visit from a parent and her daughter who had just been evacuated off the British Virgin Islands (BVI) – helicopter to Puerto Rico and then flights to Madrid and on to London. This 12 year old girl had had to take refuge in her bathroom with her father, a dog, four cats and two tortoises – and then escaped the island with just a ‘grab bag’ of personal effects, everything else having been destroyed or (literally) scattered to the four winds. The second related incident yesterday was that the BVI flag was blown free from our flagpole overnight in the much more tame winds here (c. 70 mph compared to 180 mph in the Caribbean)!

Ballard’s charity day for the Caribbean and South Asia

We shall be holding a special charity day on Friday this week to raise funds for the hurricane hit region – and also for flood victims in South Asia. This will be a home clothes’ day and a cake sale (and even I am being drafted in to bake!). Most poignantly I have just received a detailed email from a Ballard parent who lives in the BVI and is assisting with the rescue and the clear up. (I am also aware of an additional Ballard, military, family also taken up with the British government’s rescue response.)

Ballard parent’s email update from BVI

Some excerpts from this parent’s email helps us to understand a little of what’s happening:

Logistically getting help to the island is difficult when the only airport (Beef Island) only takes small turbo prop planes normally. Hence no direct flights from U.K. to BVI…Logistically it’s a difficult island to help. It’s small but very hilly with switchback, single track roads over most of the island. They are rough roads at the best of times which are now covered in debris, full of trees, and other projectiles, landslides, mud, rocks – you name it. So basically impassable. Most live up in the hills which means access to us is up tricky roads.

Priority will be for manpower with equipment to get order in Road Town and clear roads, get water and supplies to people etc. So basically people are stuck in their wrecked homes. The hospital thankfully is in one piece.

Friends and islanders were stocked up and prepared for a hurricane. But… that was some hurricane and it didn’t divert off course. So, 185 mph winds blow out windows, doors, rip off shutters and roofs.

No power means no water pumps work and people have cisterns which require pumps. Drinking water needs boiling. Town water is yet to be restored in parts. People stocked up with food but if the winds got in the house their supplies may have been scattered to the winds. Kitchen cupboard doors don’t generally encounter 185 mph winds. So thousands will be desperate for food and clean water/sanitation etc. Looting is being mentioned but as there are no windows or doors it’s not surprising those who have nothing left will take clothes and food and things!

Rich and poor alike are suffering. Very few people knew whether their supposedly “hurricane proof” home would in fact stand up to the test! Someone told me these things are tested by reference to Category 3 hurricane standards. Category 5 mega storms like no one has seen before are something else! Obviously concrete houses stood up better but even many of these have collapsed it seems, or the upper floor will have been ripped off. Not many people live in actual “shacks” in the BVI but there are pre-fab houses and wooden ones. This storm did not discriminate. Some people fared far better than others but no-one’s house is fit for habitation without doors, windows, and without an assessment by a structural engineer after this.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here


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