OCTOBER 3, 2017
NEW YORK—The branch offices in Barbados, the Dominican Republic, France, and the United States have provided the following information on how our brothers are faring in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma:
Barbados branch territories affected—Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Maarten (Dutch side). Severe damage has been reported on Barbuda and St. Maarten.
Barbuda is a small island with a total population of about 1,800 people. Since most utility services and an estimated 95 percent of all the homes there were damaged, it has been declared a disaster area and a state of emergency has been imposed. Reports confirm that all 11 publishers have been safely evacuated to the nearby island of Antigua, where a Disaster Relief Committee (DRC) is caring for their needs. There are no injuries reported.
Approximately 700 publishers live on the island of St. Martin (both the Dutch and the French sides). One sister was injured. A delegation, including members of the Barbados and France branch offices as well as medical professionals, was sent to St. Martin to assist the brothers.
France branch territories affected—Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barthelemy, and St. Martin (French side). No deaths or injuries were reported in either Guadeloupe or Martinique.
The island of St. Barthelemy (the French name for St. Barts) was devastated, and it is nearly impossible to communicate with publishers on the island. However, the branch office has received a report from the circuit overseer for the island indicating that all of the 30 publishers have been accounted for and the Kingdom Hall sustained minor damage. A DRC was formed to coordinate shipments of water, food, and other relief supplies from the nearby islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique to the brothers on St. Barthelemy and St. Martin.
Dominican Republic branch territory affected. The Branch Committee has established five permanent DRCs to care for the country’s 38,000 publishers. Days before the arrival of Irma, at the direction of the circuit overseers, congregation elders visited all of the publishers to ensure that each one was taking the necessary precautionary measures. In areas prone to flooding along the north coast, the elders evacuated 1,273 publishers to safer sites and 2,068 publishers with less secure housing were directed to take refuge in Kingdom Halls or with other Witness families in more secure dwellings.
A few recently constructed Kingdom Halls sustained minor damage. The homes of five Witness families were damaged. Repairs are being made by the local congregations or under the direction of the DRCs. There have been no deaths or injuries reported.
United States branch territories affected—the Bahamas, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos Islands, and both the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. We previously reported the deaths of one brother and one sister. While no other deaths have been reported among the brothers, the branch has confirmed that another 6 of our brothers were injured and over 3,000 have been displaced. Hundreds of brothers from central Florida and Georgia have offered their homes to evacuees.
In Florida, those at the Remote Translation Office (RTO) in Fort Lauderdale were evacuated to the West Palm Beach Assembly Hall, where they stayed for several days. The RTO offices sustained some water damage, and the residence was without power and Internet access for several days. These are now restored, and operations are returning to normal.
At the school facility in Palm Coast, Florida, all students from an incoming class of the School for Circuit Overseers and Their Wives were evacuated, as well as three classes of the School for Kingdom Evangelizers. A small group of about 20 remained safely at the facility. The property did not sustain any extensive damage though it did lose power.
The Disaster Relief Desk in the Service Department and the Local Design/Construction Department are coordinating the relief efforts to ensure that our brothers receive assistance in a safe and timely way.
Relief Centers have been set up in the U.S. to supply food and water to those affected on the mainland. Additionally, a DRC in Puerto Rico is providing humanitarian assistance to our brothers on the islands.
In the Caribbean, at least 61 homes received minor damage and 55 homes experienced major damage. Additionally, at least two Kingdom Halls sustained severe damage.
Brothers from the branch office and world headquarters are traveling to Florida and the islands to provide assistance to the brothers. Assessments are ongoing.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Irma and with all those involved in the relief efforts as they provide assistance and comfort.—Romans 15:5; 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4, 7; 8:14.
International: David A. Semonian, Office of Public Information, +1-845-524-3000
Barbados: John Medford, +1-246-438-0655
Dominican Republic: Josué Féliz, +1-809-595-4007
France: Guy Canonici, +33-2-32-25-55-55