Three months ago, life on the Caribbean island of Barbuda, in the French West Indies, morphed into nothing short of a nightmare as Hurricane Irma swept in over its shores, destroying almost everything in its way. The extent of the devastation forced the evacuation of the island’s entire population – not a single person was left behind. Today, they lead a new life as climate refugees on the neighbouring island of Antigua. Our reporter went to investigate.
The island of Barbuda, located in the northern French Antilles, is eerily abandoned. On September 6, it became one of the first victims of the powerful Hurricane Irma, which swept in with winds measuring up to 300 kilometres per hour. Irma caused total devastation, destroying 95 percent of the island’s buildings and infrastructure. One person was killed.
As a new hurricane, José, gathered force in the ocean and began to spiral towards the island, Barbuda’s authorities took an unprecedented decision and evacuated the entire island of its 1,800 inhabitants. Since then, they have lived in precarious conditions as climate refugees on neighbouring Antigua, which belongs to the same state as Barbuda. The cost of repairing the damage caused by Irma has been estimated at $250 million (€210 million) – a sum that represents three-quarters of Antigua and Barbuda’s total GDP.
As global warming shows no signs of abating, hurricanes are not only feared to become more frequent in the Caribbean, but also more violent. Just like Barbuda recently met its fate, many more Caribbean islands – known for their clear turquoise waters and white, sandy beaches – risk becoming inhabitable in the future.