by Our Foreign Staff, The Telegraph, September 7, 2017
Hollywood actor Robert de Niro has vowed to help Barbuda rebuild after Hurricane Irma left a trail of "absolute devastation" across the tiny Caribbean island.
Packing 185-mile-per-hour winds, the storm destroyed houses, snapping trees and killing at least one person
Gaston Browne, the prime minister of the two-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, described the island as "barely habitable" after the powerful Category 5 storm struck.
"This rebuilding initiative will take years," Browne told local ABS Television Radio after a visit to the island.
A two-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm, he said.
Describing the scene as "absolute devastation," he said the storm, which also snapped a telecoms tower, had caused estimated damage of some $150 million.
"It is heart-wrenching, absolutely devastating." he said, adding that 95 per cent of buildings on Barbuda had been damaged.
"I have never seen any such destruction on a per-capita before as I saw when I was in Barbuda this afternoon.
"The telecommunications system is totally destroyed, we have seen cell towers snapped in two.”
“Barbuda now is literally rubble," he added.
He estimated about 60 percent of the island's roughly 1,400 people were left homeless. "Either they were totally demolished or they would have lost their roof," Browne told the Associated Press
Lying a little over 250 miles (400 km) east of Puerto Rico, Barbuda has a population of 1,800 and is one of the Caribbean's quietest getaways for tourists coming to enjoy its turquoise seas and coral reefs.
Aerial footage of the island after Irma had passed through showed a desolate, flooded landscape shorn of trees and foliage with overturned vehicles and scattered debris.
Among the higher-end property losses on the island was the Paradise Found Nobu Resort, partially owned by Hollywood screen star Robert De Niro, according to Stan Rosenfield, a spokesman for the actor.
According to Deadline, the two-time Oscar winner said in a statement: “We are beyond saddened to learn of the devastation in Barbuda caused from Hurricane Irma and look forward to working with the Paradise Found Nobu Resort team, the Barbuda Council, GOAB and the entire Barbuda community to successfully rebuild what nature has taken away from us.”
An island resident who identified himself as King Goldilocks, 60, said he had been left homeless.
"Last night was the worst night of my life," Goldilocks said on ABS, wearing a raincoat and clutching a cane. "We had minimal loss of life but we had maximum damage.”
The airport on Barbuda has been destroyed, which means that Antigua will be used as a hub, with aid being brought across to Barbuda by boat and helicopter.
Browne said Barbudan residents should be evacuated if a second hurricane, Jose, turns toward the islands later this week. Jose is forecast to become a major storm and pass close to Antigua and Barbuda on Saturday.