It’s never over until the fat lady sings, they say.
The havoc caused by Hurricane Irma is certainly not over for the devastated communities of the British Virgin Islands and the resilient people of Virgin Gorda have been hampered in their relief efforts by the destruction of all their normal communications links.
Now, thanks to backing from Superyacht Charities and Viking, a new team from Serve On is on stand-by to return to the island to help the people of Gorda – Spanish for ‘fat lady’ – to find their voices, starting with a radio station.
The terrifying storms which destroyed so many homes and businesses also wiped out all cellular communications on Virgin Gorda so that what the people need more than anything right now is an emergency broadcast system to help coordinate their recovery.
*The islanders desperately needs digital radio communications for the emergency services and local Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR).
*They need an enduring FM radio capacity for public safety and information broadcasts.
*And they need a VHF radio system that links the whole island, and neighbouring islands, and not just Gorda’s capital Spanish Town.
Serve On volunteers who arrived on Virgin Gorda to help in the immediate aftermath of Irma, along with our collaborative partners Team Rubicon, have already moved mountains to pave the way for the vital communications links.
They have advised the local Recovery Operations Centre (VGROC) on setting up an incident control system to manage their recovery, initiated the communications project and physically carved a path to the top of remote Gorda Peak for a repeater station to be sited to enable the communications link.
Now they just need to install the vital transmitters and antennae and while Superyacht Charities have come up with £4,500 towards the cost of the equipment, Viking have donated £1,500 towards the cost of getting our experts there and back.
An FM transmitter that Serve On previously helped to install for the island’s new FM Strong radio station had to be returned to the island of Tortola, and the existing maritime VHF signals were not able to reach the devastated North Sound communities.
The new equipment will not only boost the islanders’ immediate recovery but, once normal digital phone signals are fully restored, it can be packed away and brought out in the wake of any future hurricane to provide invaluable emergency communications.
Superyacht Charities trustee Ken Hickling said: “It is a great thing that Serve On is doing and we are excited to support it.
“We said we wanted to put some money into Hurricane relief and with such a worthwhile project already underway there is an immediate opportunity to help.
“It is not us – Superyacht Charities – being generous. We are merely operating as a conduit for the generosity of the Superyacht industry as a whole. All our donors and sponsors are the people who allow us to give funds to good causes like Serve On.
“The superyacht industry goes to the Caribbean a lot so the devastation caused there really does strike a chord and our people understand the value of the marine VHF in helping the islanders recover.”
Serve On Operations Manager Craig Elsdon said: “The local people are incredibly resilient but they can’t do everything on their own.
“This generosity is just outstanding and it will provide an amazing boost to the efforts of the people to help themselves, not just on Virgin Gorda but on Anegada as well.
“The equipment will be massively important to them in organising relief efforts in the short-term but that is not the end of the story.
“Longer-term, if they have the misfortune to be in the path of a future Hurricane, they will be able to safely store the equipment until the danger has passed and immediately have the communications capacity to respond to any damage caused, so there will be an enduring legacy.”
We still need to find another £4,000 to cover the full cost of equipment and travel for our team for this deployment, and we need the public’s help to fund the day-to-day work of Serve On, helping disaster-hit communities around the world and at home, so please give what you can.
Any donations would be greatly appreciated.