BVI moves on

This is my hurricane diary.

On Wednesday, 6 September 2017 Hurricane Irma smashed into the beautiful British Virgin Islands, my home for the past 4 years. She hit us at gusts over 200 miles per hour (that is over 320 km/ hour) with a sustained wind of 185 miles per hour. This is roughly the same speed as a Formula 1 car on the fastest part of the race circuit. My story begins on Sunday, 3 days before:

Sunday 3 September: We know there is a storm coming. The projections say it is going to go north of the BVI and we are largely unconcerned. We've had hurricane warnings before, and the storms usually go north. Last year, we had a hurricane/ tropical storm warning - Hurricane Erica (I think)- and apart from BVI Electricty cutting the power (they do this whenever winds of over 50mph are expected) - nothing happened in the BVI. Erica went north. So, on Sunday, we are not worried. Nevertheless, we have read the hurricane advisories and (lazily - it is Sunday after all) decide to go get some supplies from the supermarket. At the supermarket we wander about getting Pringles, some pasta and sauce, and some burgers for the BBQ - we anticipate power cuts for a couple of days. We meet some friends in the supermarket who are, however, stockpiling food. We take note of this and decide to get another trolley - we start again at the entrance to the supermarket and get extra supplies and lots more drinking water. After the supermarket we fill up the car with gas/ petrol, then go to withdraw our cash limit from each of our bank cards. That's what the hurricane prep booklets tell you to do (but I don't think I ever really considered, at that point, why).

Monday 4 September: I go to work and am told that I have a half day off work to prepare for the hurricane. I don't take it - I'm more concerned about clients trying to contact me if communications go down, and I spend the afternoon telling them all that I might not be able to respond to their emails for a couple of days. Most don't respond. Some of my colleagues are trying to get flights out of the BVI but all commercial flights are fully booked. There's just no way off the rock for most people. My boss makes everyone in my department draw a map to their house so we can check on each other if phone signal is lost. I print all the maps and directions to my colleagues' houses and I take those (together with the fountain pen that my parents gave me for my 21st birthday) back home. Saskie has been working to get the house ready and has taken down all our art from the walls and has bought a gas (camping) cooking hob. I'm still not worried and (if I'm honest) I suspect everyone is overreacting - but there's no harm in being prepared. At around 7.30pm I get an email from a colleague saying that one of the accountancy firms has booked a private charter flight out of BVI to Cayman at 9am the next morning (although it appears that this will be a significant cost) - my colleague asks "do you want to get you family out?" At this point, I realise that other people are genuinely afraid and are desperate to get off the island. For a moment I consider not telling Saskie - I know this will cause her to worry - but I think better of it and this is a decision that must be made by us both.  Saskie and I discuss it at length and ultimately decide to decline the offer. We rationalise it by considering the cost, and still (at this point) think we'd only be gone for a few days so, what's the point?

Tuesday 5 September: I have the day off work - Irma is expected to arrive tomorrow morning. I wake up and drive up the road to start filling up sandbags. My neighbour has a big pile of sand which he's using to concrete his driveway - I fill up about 20 bags. Whilst I'm doing it I step in some cat shit (it's a pile of sand.. what did I expect?) but I only notice it when I get back in the car. This really annoys me and I spend a lot of time messing about trying to clean my boots and the carpet in the car. We eventually put away all outside furniture, prepare our 'safe' rooms, put duct tape over gaps in the sliding doors, I cook a chicken pasta for the fridge, put all the (inside) furniture on boxes (in anticipation of flooding), and we panic a bit. I then put on an 80's "mega-hits" playlist and we drink some rum. I make nervous, flippant jokes on Facebook. I notice that the house below us has occupants (it's a holiday let and it's usually empty at this time of year) and I go down with a torch. I meet Leon and Michelle in the driveway who are looking after the house for their boss - I tell them where we are intending to ride out the storm and ask them to check on us after it has passed - I agree to do the same for them. We move all the mattresses into Wren's room - it's in the middle of the house - and we tell the kids we're camping. We check the hurricane centre website and - Irma was due to be going north - but now she most certainly isn't. In fact - she is heading straight for us, and she's getting bigger and stronger. I now know this is really serious.

Wednesday 6 September. I wake up and I feel nauseous - and it isn't last night's rum. Saskie hasn't really slept. I have but I am extremely anxious. We talk about our safe room plan. We are going to stay in Wren's room and if things get serious we have a hurricane 'bunker' to hide in. This is the storeroom under the stairs - it's about 10' x 4' and we've already cleared out enough space for a few cushions for us and the kids. We have a 'shelf' for Chai (our cat). We move a mattress and put it in front of the storeroom door, then we turn the dining room table on its end to go in front of the mattress. We put water, food, torches, a bucket (for the kids toilet), toilet roll and a crowbar in the storeroom - we are worried that the sliding doors to the lounge will come off and trap us in the room. Our landlord tells us that the glass to the sliding doors is hurricane proof, but we are worried that the entire frame will leave the wall. We get the cat and put her in a crate. We wait.

8am -the wind picks up and it is the windiest I've ever seen it in the BVI. My internet signal is weak so I send some messages to friends asking for updates. A friend in Singapore sends me a message saying Irma has caused "major damage" in Saint Martin (an island very near to us) and that the Governor has got a message out to say that the Saint Martin government buildings - the sturdiest built there (he says) - have been destroyed. This is what is coming for us. I message back "Oh f*@k; f*@k; f*@k ". I ask what the wind speed is at that exact moment - he says it's currently 40-50 mph in BVI. He says there were winds of 185 mph in Barbuda and "looks like it will pick up a fair bit at midday, peaking at 2-3 pm". I can't believe that the wind is only at a quarter of the expected speed - it is howling outside. I agree with Saskie that we'll move into the bunker at noon.

8.35 am - Saskie loses phone reception on her carrier. I know mine will go down soon.

9am - I lose phone reception. At this point, I know that we are essentially alone and no one can help us if things go wrong.

10am - the wind is howling and leaves and twigs are thwacking into our glass doors. It is raining hard and there are waves in our pool. We abandon the "noon plan" and move everyone (including the cat) into the bunker. We put cartoons on the iPad for the kids and Saskie and I sit there, quietly.

11am - Trees outside are bending over and branches are snapping off. It's one thing seeing it on TV, it's quite another to see it through the glass doors of my own home. The wind is now vicious and rain (together with debris) is pelting the windows and doors. I am quiet, and occasionally look out the bunker to see the state of things. There is not much to see - but the noise of the wind is frightening. I am scared, and I can't remember the last time I felt this way, it might have been when I was a child. It is relentless.

Noon - it sounds like someone is revving a Boeing 747 outside my house. There is a roaring noise, but on top of that we hear loud noises - cracking, snapping, whizzing. I won't go upstairs to check the house - I'm worried the roof might be "peeling" off. The house is flooding.

12.30 - the house is now shaking and my ears are popping. I look outside the bunker for a second and immediately regret it. I can't actually see anything outside - it is as if there are firemen standing outside my house with fire hoses pumping out water. But - the whole house is shaking. It's terrifying. It reminds me of when I was a teenager and I cranked my music loud that the speakers started buzzing and pulsing - that's now what is happening to the entire house. I remember what my friend in Singapore said about the storm peaking at 2-3pm, and I think to myself "this isn't over…. if this keeps up for another hour we're not going to survive it". More cracking - I'm convinced we are losing the roof upstairs.

[Note: At this point, other people are actually losing their roofs and are running from room to room as the house collapses around them - but I don't know this yet...]

12.45 - the wind starts to die down, and I don't immediately know why. I picture the satellite images and think that we are in a gap in the storm, and that the wind will pick up again soon. I am half right.

1pm - the sun comes out and all is calm. It is eerie, but a huge relief. I go outside and can't believe what I'm seeing - huge trees snapped in half, almost no leaves on any of the trees - it also looks as if bark has been stripped off the trees. I look up to the south and see my neighbour has lost his entire roof. I look at the house below and Leon and Michelle have taken all their clothes off and have jumped in their swimming pool. WTF! I shout down to Leon - what are you doing? He shouts up- "swimming!". He points to his eye and shouts - "this is the eye, get ready for round 2". We quickly run around the house and move any potential projectiles - there is all kinds of debris on our deck and in the driveway. Our satellite dish is in the garden, and there are what looks like white ski's way below the house. It takes me a minute before I realise that these are the metal blades from our outdoor fans. We collect as much as we can and store it all below the pool deck. I check the roof - it's still there. I look at the beach - it is gone - the whole beach (and at least 50 metres of land after the beach) is entirely covered by sea water from the storm surge. Huge waves are breaking about 500m away from the beach. The sea is no longer blue, but a grey/ green with white caps. Saskie notices that there is a dog - alive - cowering under my car. We have seen it before around our neighbourhood - her name is Maxie. We grab Maxie by the collar and drag her out from under the car. We put her in the bathroom. We go back inside the house.

1.30pm - a big gust of wind wraps around the house. It is coming from the other (south) side now. As I move into the bunker I hear a sound that I will never forget - it's the sound of a suitcase unzipping, but amplified by 100. We feel the impact of the wind immediately (inside the house) - whhomp! - and my ears pop again. We hear bang bang bang and big things snapping. We hear a weird howling sound which freaks us out - then we realise it is Maxie in the bathroom.

1.35 pm - I had (the day before) filled up my hip flask with a very fine rum. I hadn't touched it yet, but the kids ask for a snack, and it's in the snack box. Saskie passes it to me and I now begin to drink it. We sit in the bunker…. again.

2.30 pm - the wind is relentless and the noise is again unbelievable - but now it is hitting the back of the house and it feels like the wind is ramping off the roof (like one of those x-games BMX bikers) - at least there is no debris now hitting the windows and glass doors.

3.30 pm - it's still going, but it feels like the wind has dropped (slightly) and I am fairly certain we are now going to survive. I go upstairs and look out the windows - there is nothing left of any trees, the balcony is under 6 inches of water, the gutters have gone. Saskie also looks outside and says "we'll need a gardener". I laugh.

4pm - the wind seems to have calmed down. I go outside to look. It's still gusty and a single rain drop hits me on the cheek - it stings, like someone has flicked me. A gust of wind nearly knocks me off my feet. I go back inside and we start mopping the floors with towels.

5pm - the wind has really dropped now and we go outside and see our neighbours standing out on their decks - as we are doing. We shout and ask if they're okay - they both give us the thumbs up, then put their hands on their heads. We look around and it is carnage. The beach is back though - the southern wind has ironed out the sea - it is flat now, but a very odd colour, a glassy azure blue, like Peyto Lake in the rockies.

We clean for an hour or two and then get the chicken pasta out the fridge - it is delicious. It's the first thing I've eaten today. We have no power, no mobile phone reception. I don't remember anything else about that day.

Thursday 7 September: We start the clean-up in earnest. I check the house and the cars. My car has dents on the bonnet and a smashed head light. Saskie's Kea appears to be untouched but then she notices that a door handle is missing. Odd. There are trees blocking the driveway. We get a saw and a machete and start chopping and removing the trees that block the cars. It's a big job but there's no one to help so we just get on with it and hack the trees into pieces that we can move. We're half way through the job and I find a door in amongst under the trees. It is locked. It's not ours. (I check with the neighbours a few days later and it doesn't belong to any of them - I still don't know where it has come from). We find chunks of tiles and glass on our deck - again, not ours. Sheets of corrugated roofing are wrapped (like quality street chocolates) around trees in our garden. Mattresses are lying in the road - not ours. There is still no power (and therefore no running water - it operates by electrical pump) and still no phone reception. We can only get radio stations- in Spanish - from Puerto Rico. This is quite worrying because we had been told that local radio stations would broadcast updates after the storm.

We check in with all our neighbours. We ask about the next hurricane - Hurricane Jose - they say it's getting bigger and it's due on Saturday. We are told by other neighbours that there is some phone reception over the hill and that they managed to get a call out to family in the UK. There are massive boulders lying in the road alongside piles of mud. There have been huge mudslides. There is no way we can drive anywhere - the roads are completely blocked.

Saskie decides to walk up the hill to get phone reception so she can get a message to family. She comes back and cries. She shows me a couple of photos on her phone - I can't believe it - whole houses have moved from their foundations, shipping containers (from where?) litter the road, power lines cover the road like a spider's web. Saskie says it is like the apocalypse. I am frightened again. Saskie got a couple of bars of phone reception but email/ SMS to family have failed to send. I go to see my neighbours who have lost their roof and realise that all the doors and windows to their house are also gone - their house is flooded too but they can't mop up because there is shattered glass in the puddles. I promise to go back in the morning to help them clean up. They are staying the night with family in the neighbourhood.

Our neighbour arrives at the house just before dark and says he has walked to Town to get phone reception- he says there is some patchy reception way over the hill. He says "prepare yourself, Town is way worse than this". I assume he is exaggerating and press him for details - he tells me that the damage to our neighbourhood is about 20% of the damage to houses over the hill. He says again "prepare yourself". His wife is in tears and can't stop crying. We invite them in and offer them a drink. We have several bottles of (room temperature) Waitrose Prosecco. Leon says he has ice in his freezer and goes to get it. We have Prosecco with ice - it is magnificent - but it feels wrong to be drinking bubbly. We drink it anyway. I pop the cork of the second bottle and the noise makes everybody jump.

Friday 8 September: I am speaking with a neighbour and we can hear a grinding sound - there is a a bulldozer coming down the road pushing debris and boulders to the side. 3 cars follow behind it. I ask the lady in the lead car where she has come from and she says "Town". I ask her how it is down there and she says "it's gone." I walk back down to the house and tell Saskie that I'm going to drive to town to try to get a message out to family. Saskie doesn't want me going alone - we are hearing reports of looting. I drive up the road to speak to (other) neighbours to ask if they'll come with me to Town, but friends of theirs have just arrived to ask for help in fixing a roof so they are not able to go. I decide to go on my own. I drive up to the Ridge Road and it looks like a bomb has gone off. I am concentrating on the road (dodging trees, cars and roofing) and then I look up and realise I don't know where I am. I have only driven 100m (and I drive this road to work every day) but all my points of reference are gone and I feel confused and disoriented. I drive down to town and - words can't describe - the destruction is catastrophic. I start crying.

I make it into Town and the scenes there are incomprehensible - the atmosphere is weird, ominous. I just don't recognise it and I have to weave through roofs, glass, huge power lines and poles and upside down cars to get to my office. I park around the corner from my office and walk the rest of the way. Some people have smashed their way into Vanterpool Pharmacy, Bolo's and Bobby's Supermarket and are carrying things out - electronic equipment, household items, toys. There is a man riding a little pink bicycle- probably made for girls aged 10-12 - along waterfront drive. There is also a traffic jam because other people have stopped their cars in the road and are shouting at the looters to stop. I hear someone shout "have some respect". The looters don't care and carry on. I walk past them - aggressively - and go to the office.

I get to the office and one of my colleagues meets me at the entrance- she is in tears. I go up to the 3rd floor and check in - there are 3 or 4 of my colleagues in the managing partner's office. They are pleased to see me. I ask if anyone has phone reception. One of my colleagues (she just started work a couple of weeks ago) says she has a phone with a SIM card from Turkey. I send out a quick message to my sister Melissa who I know will be able to get a message out to others. Melissa sends me a message back and I feel a huge sense of relief. I then hear a sound like a motor, and someone says the office generator has started up. I pick up a phone and - I can't quite believe it - there is a signal. I phone Melissa and tell her that we are safe. She tells me that everyone was worried - she then starts sobbing, and I sit in an office (not my own) and do the same.

I drive back home and give a lift to a man from St Kitts who says that he arrived the previous Sunday for a one week building contract. I ask him how he'll get home and he says "I don't know". I offer him some water, which is all I have in the car, and we drive the rest of the way up the hill in silence.

I get back home and tell Saskie that I have spoken to Melissa - Saskie cries too. We check our supplies and satisfy myself that we have everything we need - for at least another 10 days. We clear out the fridge - it is a warm cupboard now - and move things to our small freezer (which is now our fridge). Food is going to go off quickly without power so we work out what to eat first. It will be burgers tonight. We have hooked up the cooking hob to the gas bottle from our BBQ (which is full) - so we can at least cook.

Saturday 9 September: At around 8 am I go to my neighbour's house (the one without the roof) and I introduce myself properly - I don't know them very well - and I tell them that I have a tool box and a broom - I ask what I can do to help. My neighbour says he's okay, but I insist that he gives me a job to do. He says he could use some help boarding up the house (the glass doors are all smashed). Hurricane Jose is expected at around midnight. We get to work and are both surprised at how quickly we get the job done - it is easier with two - but it's working together with someone else that really helps. We spent 3-4 hours doing this and we talk about Hurricane Jose. Another neighbour arrives around 11 am and tells us that Jose is moving north and is not expected to be anything more than a tropical storm for BVI. This is a huge relief for us.

I go home for lunch and I cook 4 fried cheese and salami sandwiches in the pan. Saskie and I agree that it might be the best lunch we've ever had - even better than that Michelin star restaurant we went to in London for a wedding anniversary. I go back to my neighbours house and spend another hour sweeping up glass. His brother arrives with a group of guys to help patch up the roof and I now feel that I'm just getting in the way. I have a bottle of water with him and my neighbour thanks me and says that he no longer needs my help. I walk up the road and go to another neighbour who (again) says he's okay, but after I insist again, tells me that he too could use a hand boarding up the house. He's left handed and I'm right handed - this is a a great combination for hammering in boards around the corners of the house - again, we get it done quicker than expected.

I return home around 6pm and - just as I get back - one of my colleagues from the office arrives at my house and tells us "there is a flight leaving at 7 am tomorrow, the managing partner wants your family on it". I don't know if this means that it's only for Saskie and the kids. My colleague says that we need to get our passports and go with him (now) to spend the night in the office so that we can leave in convoy from Town at first light tomorrow. It is dark now, the Governor has instituted a 6pm curfew, and Jose is expected later. I tell him that I won't drive to Town tonight - it is too dangerous. He tells me that the managing partner insists that we stay overnight in the office for Hurricane Jose. I tell him "No". I promise that I will get to Town at dawn tomorrow, and I give him our passports so that he can add us to the flight manifest. I ask him where we are going and he doesn't know - he thinks maybe Cayman or London.

The thought of leaving doesn't give us a sense of relief - it's quite the opposite - our stress levels hit the roof. We put the children to sleep and start packing by torch light. Saskie tells me that before I start packing I must ask our neighbours if they want to stay in our house. I drive to his brothers' house (where I expect him to be). I don't know where this house is and I start wandering around in the dark. I hear a voice shout out to me "where you going man?" but I can't see anyone - it's pitch black. I shout back "to the farm" and it (the voice) says "turn left" and then guides me to the house. My neighbour is not at the farm so I go back to his house and he's still boarding it up by himself (using the light from the screen of his phone). He thanks me for the offer to use our house but says he'll need to talk to his family about it - it's not a straightforward decision. I ask if he'll look after our cat no matter what. He agrees.

Saskie and I decide on one bag for each of us - but we don't even know if we'll get that on the flight. Sas starts on the kids' stuff and I go to our (messy) paper files and pull out important documents - birth and marriage certificates, important contracts and financial info. I start packing clothes (mostly work clothes) and then go for sentimental items. I take a photo of my dad as a young man (fishing in Scotland), I get my great, great grandfathers' pocket watch, my calligraphy pen and the cufflinks I wore on my wedding day. I don't need to pack passports, cash, hard drives and phones because these have been in a (double) ziplock bag since before the storm.

At around 11pm the wind picks up again - it's Jose. I suddenly start to panic that the wind is going to move debris back into the roads which will block our way to Town and the airport. Saskie tells me there's nothing we can do about that, and tells me to get on with packing. That's what I do.

It is around 3 am before we finish. We also take the pet passport for our cat, Chai - we will have to get her out another day.

Sunday 10 September: We wake up at 5am and put the children and the bags in the car. We leave the house at around 5.30 am - I feel exhausted and nauseous. I drive into Town and several of my colleagues are milling around outside. We drive in convoy. As we leave Town there is a huge traffic jam, but the 'lead' car in the convoy overtakes the traffic and after about 200 metres we realise that this is the queue for the gas station. The road to the airport has been 'cleared' (by a bulldozer) but it is still littered with power lines, poles, overturned cars, shipping containers and boats. We drive fast and it is a frightening experience. It reminds me of a video game I used to play many years ago called "Daytona Racer" - dodging upturned cars in the road. Moss is sitting in the back and is giggling - he tells me to look at a car in a tree. I don't look - I have tunnel vision and I try to keep up with the convoy.

We get to the airport but can't see any planes at all. Nobody has any phone reception and the other people expected to join our flight (from another company) aren't there. All roads to the airport terminal appear blocked so we take the 'Cargo Entrance' and for a moment consider driving on the actual runway to get to the terminal. Wings of airplanes lie by the side of the runway, there is a helicopter lying on its side, smashed up, with no rotors. It is like a movie set. One of our group goes to the airport terminal to get some information and is gone a long time. Saskie shouts - "Muzz, there's Chris". I look up and one of my best mates is wandering over to me. He gives me a big (bearded Yorkshireman) hug. Chris has also been told that there is a charter flight for him and his colleagues but there are no planes, and nobody has phone reception. He tells us how to get to the airport terminal and we drive over there to find about 20 people outside the terminal, waiting. Nobody knows what is going on, but general consensus is that we just wait.

We wait a few hours and there is a rumour that the airport is closed to everyone but military. The British army is in the airport - heavily armed - and they have bulldozers clearing up debris. The army brings us out a case of bottled water. We hear a noise and we see a plane landing. I have been given the licence/ tail number of the charter flight for our group and - unbelievably- this is the plane that has arrived. We see an immigration official go into the airport terminal and we start to get our hopes up. There is a discussion about who will get on the first flight out - there are many more people than available seats. The pilot comes out and there is a lengthy discussion about who gets on the first flight. The pilot agrees to allow Moss and Wren to sit our laps. Some (amazing) people offer to wait for the next flight. We are ushered through the airport and on to the runway.

We get to the plane and the pilot tells us not to worry - he's done this before. For some reason, this is just a massive relief. He says that the British Army told him on his radio, on his approach into the airport, that only military flights only were allowed to land. He tells us that he replied "I'm landing, what are you going to do about it?". He got no response and landed.

We take off and fly, in silence, over the islands. We can see, for the first time, the damage to the island. I'm confused - because I see a town I don't recognise and I ask the person next to me if that is Spanish Town (Virgin Gorda). No, she says, that's Road Town. It is unbelievable - but we see that it's not just Tortola- all of Virgin Gorda, St Thomas, Jost Van Dyke have been flattened. The reality begins to set in. The destruction is total and complete. My fellow passengers sit in silence with tears rolling down their cheeks. Wren is on my lap clinging to her doll.

We arrive in San Juan, Puerto Rico and I now have phone reception for the first time. I speak to a lady from our Cayman office and she tells us that rooms have been booked for all of us at the Marriott hotel. We arrive at the hotel, exhausted and hungry. I walk through the lobby of the hotel and stop. Am I dreaming? It appears that half of the BVI is here in the hotel and I can't comprehend what I'm seeing. There are holiday makers in bathing suits, BVI friends (just arriving at the hotel) are hugging each other and laughing, some people sit on their own in the restaurant weeping, and Richard Branson is sitting in the lobby with the crew of Necker Island - all on computers and iPad's, trying to organise a relief effort for BVI. I go to my room and make some emotional phone calls. I then go downstairs to the hotel restaurant and there is a buffet breakfast (even though it's about 2pm). I go for bacon, eggs and English muffins (three times).

We spend, I think, 3 nights in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and it is an emotional time for me. I'm told we will be sent to our Cayman office until further notice. Chris tells me he is going to his firm's Bermuda office. Others are going to London. After dinner with Saskie and the kids that night, I realise for the first time that I may never see some of my BVI friends again and - now sitting alone in a crowded hotel restaurant - I start to cry (and I just can't stop). A waitress from the restaurant comes up to me, stoops down and gives me a big hug. She says "We are praying for you all. The most important thing is that you have your family, and don't forget that the people of Puerto Rico are also your family. Here's a cold beer - it's on me".

We are now in Cayman, and I am back at work. We have rented an apartment and are trying to piece together the fragments of the life we had and arrange a generator for the house. The story doesn't end here, it is only just beginning..... but we are going back to the BVI - back to our home.

Epilogue. There is a perception that the BVI is home to billionaires. It is true that some very wealthy individuals live in the BVI (as they do everywhere else in the world) but the majority of people on these little islands are not well off. The residents of the BVI are, for the most part, those that clean the yachts and holiday homes of the wealthy, cook their food and arrange their financial and legal affairs. We know how lucky we are to have survived Irma with a house that is largely intact, and our good fortune at having been evacuated out of the BVI. Thousands have remained in the BVI and are still struggling. Private and government relief efforts have made a huge impact, and the BVI has now largely moved past the immediate (water and tinned food) emergency relief needs. But many people have lost everything, and really still need help… we expect it will be 8-10 months before the whole island of Tortola gets power back.

I have tried to be generous in my life and I have donated to many causes, fun runs and charities- sometimes anonymously, sometimes not. To my knowledge I have never asked anyone for a donation for any cause or for any reason. But - if I have ever donated to your charitable ventures, or given you free legal advice, bought you an unexpected gift or extended any kindness to you, now is the time that I would ask you to return the favour. The BVI is a special place, and it is has been a good home to me and my family. The people of the BVI still need help. We have set up this Go Fund Me page to collect donations for anyone that wants to give one - $10, $20, $100 - it all helps. Saskie and I intend to return to the BVI at the end of this month and will use those funds to help those in need - whether that is buying a mattress for someone who has had their house flooded, buying tools for those rebuilding, buying pet food for the animal shelter, or buying something simple like seeds for a veggie garden - we would like to help people get some sense of their life back. We intend to buy local to get the economy moving again. We are putting some money in to get things started. If you prefer to donate to the wider relief programme we would recommend the Virgin Unite charity. We will update this page to let you know where the money is going. If you do donate, I thank you.
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Murray David Laing 
Kingswear, South West England, United Kingdom
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