The prime minister of one of the islands devastated by Irma has blamed the carnage on global warming and criticised world leaders who deny climate change.
Gaston Browne, the leader of Barbuda and the larger neighbouring island of Antigua which escaped the worst of the hurricane, told the BBC’s Today programme: “The science is clear. Climate change is real in the Caribbean we are living with the consequences of climate change. It is unfortunate that there are some who see it differently.”
Browne revealed that he may have to order the evacuation of Barbuda if forecasters warn that it will be hit again by Hurricane Jose, after Hurricane Irma left 90% of buildings damage, and half the island’s 2,000 people homeless.
He added: “This storm was easily the strongest to have developed in the Atlantic. The carnage is there for all to see.”
Browne did not name Donald Trump, but he said politicians who denied climate change, as Trump has done, were irresponsible.
He said: “The irony about it is that islands in the Caribbean are very small … Many of us are not emitters of carbon and we suffering from all of these profligate emissions from large industrial countries. And at the same time you have some leaders in the industrial world who are trying to say that climate change is not real. We do not accept that, we see that as a form of irresponsibility. These heavy polluters ought to take responsibility for climate change. They are the ones who have the large carbon footprint and in essence are contributing to global warming at the expense of other countries that clearly are not polluting the planet.”
Browne spoke of his shock of seeing the damage to Barbuda on helicopter trip on Wednesday after mistakingly tweeting the that the island had escaped the worst.
He said: “I was shocked, we were cut off from Barbuda, the last set of reports that we had early in the morning at about 2am was that they were doing pretty OK. We had absolutely no knowledge that the island was literally devastated.”
“It was easily one of the most emotionally painful experiences I’ve had. From what I’ve seen at least 90% of the properties in Barbuda suffered some level of damage.
“Approximately 50% are homeless at this time, they are bunking together. We are trying to get some immediate relief supplies to them, and see how we can start the recovery effort.”
Browne said it could take years and tens of millions of pounds to rebuild the island.
He said: “It could be in the region of $100m, for a small state that is definitely beyond our means. We will have to approach the international community for some level of assistance.
“As a member of the Commonwealth we would appreciate any assistance that could be extended by the UK and other Commonwealth countries.”