St. John residents prepare for long road to reconstruction

ST. JOHN, Virgin Islands (CNN) — On the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John, one mother says, “There’s nothing left of my home.”

U.S. forces and volunteers are trickling in, bringing aid and security. But many residents are evacuating, leaving their shattered lives behind.

CNN’s Sara Sidner has more from the island.

This is – or was – a historic lookout point. The Chateau Bordeaux restaurant, where, tourists and residents alike spent time taking a look at the beautiful views here in St. John. Well, those views are gone.”

Leah Randall, St John resident said, “We are supposed to be America’s paradise and look what it looks like.”

Leah Randall rode out Hurricane Irma in a hurricane bunker with her fiancé. When she emerged from safety she was awestruck at the view of their beloved island of St. John.

Randall said, “I don’t think people understand the level of devastation that we have now. We feel like we were in a war zone and a nuclear bomb went off.”

Now the shock of it all is subsiding, and the tears are beginning to flow.

As neighbor greets neighbor to commiserate,  for Leah and her fiancé, the storm snatched away their charter business and their dream home–a wooden boat named Buxxom II.

Randall said,  “This morning, pictures of Boxxum it’s unreal. All the stuff we had on there is gone. We had three suitcases.”

From the ground its clear things are bad here once you get higher on the island the true scope of the devastation comes into focus. There is damage just about everywhere, but it’s not just homes that are damaged. Take a look at the infrastructure.

Nearly every light pole pushed over in some way not a single one standing up straight.

Kind residents offered to drive us from Coral Bay to Cruz Bay on the other side of the island. For a time the scene just kept getting worse and worse at every turn.

Johhny B has lived on St. John for 20 years. He said life was easy and laid back.

“I got make a choice. I mean this is a hard. It’s gonna be a hard way of life. Compared to what it was for 20 years.”

Then the storm hit and the next day chaos ensued.

What happened in the first day after the storm that surprised you or  disturbed you?

“Looting. A lot of the people I didn’t expect. It wasn’t time for desperation. It was just gross.”

Police have now moved in to quell the security issue. But the most needed supplies are still just trickling in a week after Hurricane Irma hit.

In Coral Bay, most of the supplies are shipped in by private individuals from St. Croix. Just about everyone need something here including the famous wild donkeys of St. John; they too are survivors of the storm, left to forage what little vegetation is left.

“It’s just disbelief. It’s hard to believe. We all lost something in this storm. A lot of people lost everything.”

Life used to be easy on this island, very laid back and now people realize just how hard their lives have gotten. People that are asking, what is it that we can do to help St. John and some of these other islands dealing with the devastation…well, they need things like generators because power is completely gone here…it’s dark. They also need a communication tower so they can try to get supplies in and out. And the things they need – those things are hard to come by in this little, tiny island.

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