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CULEBRA - Post Hurricanes Irma and Maria Update
Culebra is a municipal island with a population of around 2,000 people, and like other United States Caribbean territories, was recently hit hard by two powerful hurricanes, Hurricane Irma on Sept 6th and Hurricane Maria on September 20th. While Culebra was blessed in that there was no loss of life on island, Culebra’s fragile island infrastructure and communications have taken a severe hit. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of community leaders, Culebra now enjoys limited electric, water, post office and banking access.
Unfortunately the electric and water on island, are working as temporary solutions likely to get worse before they get better. Unreliable cell signals still have to be sought out, typically in areas facing St. Thomas, and these signals have not been strong or consistent enough to establish hotspots and send emails until now. Limited CLARO service appears to be returning via weather balloon dirigibles rumored to be flying over the island, but these provide only some limited verbal and text messaging. The Red Cross had a representative sending emails for people from emergency service equipment, but GPS devices, sat phones and emergency emails proved very unreliable. The satellite phone/GPS emergency device failures we witnessed during this crisis have really been a surprise. The recovery post-Maria was slowed by a few weeks of torrential rains that followed the storm disrupting ravel to the two points of communication on the island. This is further compromising coastal water quality and aquatic emergency cleanup and restoration efforts. An October Sahara dust storm just passed us, unprecedented for October.
The positive attitude of the local Culebrenses and the strength and resilience that this small island community has demonstrated over the past month in the face of such hardships has truly been inspiring. We are more determined than ever to do everything we can to help our beautiful island recover.