Words by: Jonathan Sanders

Dominica storm aftermath. Photocred: NBCNews.com 

Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria were two of the most powerful storms in history, leaving a
path of demolition through the Caribbean in their wake.

The two storms especially devastated the lives of students at Florida A&M University and their family members who are of Caribbean descent.

Hurricane Irma was an extremely powerful and catastrophic hurricane, logging in as the strongest observed hurricane with maximum sustained winds in the Atlantic Ocean since Wilma in 2005.

Irma first formed on August 30, 2017 and sustained destructive force until dissipating on September 16, 2017, but not before causing damage to many island nations in the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria shortly followed, forming on September 6, 2017.  It grew to be the tenth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. Consequently, it gave virtually no time for these islands in the Caribbean to recover from Irma.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, FAMU students of island origin have been affected as their families are severely suffering back home in their home countries. Many students are struggling to even get in contact with their family as the storms left many places without power.

Kiannah Laurent, a Senior Nursing student at FAMU has family in both St. Thomas and the Virgin Islands.

“It took us almost three days before we could make contact with my grandparents after Irma hit St. Thomas, and even longer to find out statuses of our other family members across the island. There is no cell service and many places are without power,” Laurent said.

Laurent continued, “My cousins have no school to attend because all have been destroyed. In Dominica, 90% of the homes in my father’s village are destroyed. Many are dead. There is no hospital anymore on the island. People have resorted to looting stores just to find drinkable water, food, and baby supplies.”

Many island nations in the Caribbean have left the natives to fend for themselves. Other places, such as St. Martin, are in complete isolation. Communication is very difficult due to the fact that the majority of the island is still without power.

The Dutch island of St. Martin (St. Maarten) felt the brutal effect of this year’s hurricane season with 90% of the country’s building structures have been destroyed.

Alexandrine Peterson, a Counselor Education Graduate Student, has strong ties with St. Maarten, as she was born and raised there.

Hurricane Irma tore through her home town, but still she was luckier than most.

“My family’s home suffered some structural damage, however they were more fortunate than others who were left without a home period,” said Peterson.

However, the physical destruction does not compare to the emotional damage that natives of St. Maarten are experiencing. Buildings can be rebuilt, but family possessions and memorabilia cannot be replaced.

“The emotional trauma was much more to bare, as following the hurricane my siblings were amongst many citizens who evacuated to other islands/countries,” said Peterson.

“Life, for now, is a fragile thing on St. Martin,” Azam Ahmed of the New York Times wrote in More Than a Week After Irma, St. Martin Is Still Trying to Survive.

Maria and Irma have also brought the economy detriment, as St. Maarten’s staple tourism industry is severely suffering. All of the damage that has been done has left many residents of the island without their usual means for income. This harshly hinders natives’ ability to recover, let alone survive.

Shakimo Martinus, a Biology Pre-Medicine Student, also calls St. Maarten home. His family has been left without work due to the distressed tourism industry after Irma.

“Many of the hotels have been damaged badly, and thus, will leave the tourism sector in a state of disarray,” Martinus said. “Both my mother and grandfather work as taxi drivers, and this will leave them without work for the next coming months.”

But even still, there is hope, as the people of the Caribbean begin to pick up the pieces of their lives effected by the storm.

“My family is thankful to have life and are trying as much as possible to establish some normalcy into their lives, as the country is progressively being rebuilt and businesses are reopening,” Peterson said.


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