'We Need Help': U.S. Virgin Islands Governor On Devastation After Maria And Irma

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U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp arrives at the Charles F. Blair National Guard Hangar after flying over St. Thomas, one of the islands hit by Hurricane Irma in St. Croix, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Carlos Giusti/AP)
U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp arrives at the Charles F. Blair National Guard Hangar after flying over St. Thomas, one of the islands hit by Hurricane Irma in St. Croix, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Carlos Giusti/AP)

President Trump issued disaster declarations for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after the passage of Hurricane Maria.

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson talks with U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp (@govhouseusvi) about the recovery effort there.

Interview Highlights

On the situation after Maria

"I had three islands — St. John, St. Thomas and Water Island — devastated by Hurricane Irma, and St. Croix was our base for restoration and recovery. And then here came Maria, and Maria decided, well, she wanted a piece of the Virgin Islands as well, and so a good section of St. Croix on the western end really got hammered hard. I mean the island was affected across the board, but the western end got hammered hard. So we're really right now making sure we check on our folks, make sure they're sheltered, they're fed, they're secure. We have a full curfew in the territory today. And I'm here working with the FEMA folks trying to make sure that we're reprovisioning more stuff to make sure we can feed our folks, give them water, and then we will turn our sight towards recovery, and the rebuilding of the entire U.S. Virgin Islands."

On the extent of power outages

"One-hundred percent out. Only those folks with power generations have power. The hospital is generated, we do the hospitals and the airports completely underground, so they have power. But everywhere else is relying on their own standby generators. The main distribution terminal from the plant where all those heavy power lines came down, that's damaged. So before they can get any place, have power, they've gotta get that assessed and then repaired, and start working on going out into the community."

On the power restoration timeline for St. Croix

"I believe we'll start seeing pockets of power probably within the week. But power restoration across the entire island will take months."

On what the U.S. Virgin Islands need most from the outside

"We need help. With our FEMA partners and our cruise ship partners, we're bringing in a lot of food, water, tarpaulins, personal hygiene packs, cots and blankets. That's really the immediacy of the need. We're asking folks who can to go to USVI Recovery and they can donate there. That's under the Community Foundation of the V.I., it's a 501(c)(3), and indeed it's been around for 30 years in the Virgin Islands, and they do all kinds of stuff to help the community, and we're coordinating donations there. But you know, folks that like to put missions together, we were asking them to think about food and water, and cots, personal hygiene packs. We're gonna soon have the DMATs, the disaster medical assistance teams, on the ground. We're expecting the C-17s to start arriving late this afternoon and this evening. I was able to speak to our Administrator William Brock Long of FEMA, and had a very good conversation with him, as well as the Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, as we coordinate the relief for St. Croix."

On which island is in the worst shape

"I know St. John is still the worst of it in terms of the extent of the damages. St. John and St. Croix and St. Thomas really hold a lot of the main infrastructure, particularly St. John is reliant on the infrastructure of St. Thomas, and we're working now, today they started back on power restoration there. St. Croix, we're just trying to fire up standby generators to water pumps and keep the city waters flowing and stuff like that. I can't tell you today which is the worst. It's worse in different pockets for many reasons, but it's just bad."

On what dealing with Maria and Irma has been like

"I have the distinct honor of being on deck with two [Category 5 hurricanes] in 12 days. Yesterday I was on 32 hours straight without sleep, and I was actually able to go and get a very hot shower and just lay down and sleep for five hours. And I truly got up much more refreshed today and much more focused. But I'll worry about me later as long as I can get a good chow in and coordinate the efforts and get them done, what need to be done, and take care of the folks. I'll be fine, if I see progress for the folks, that really helps me. That helped me personally to continue to drive on adrenaline and do what I am required to do."

This article was originally published on September 21, 2017.

This segment aired on September 21, 2017.



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