An Island Parish (BBC2) went to Anguilla a while back, and found a relaxed, close community with a lot of churches. Now it returns to the island in the wake of Irma, the category 5 hurricane that blew the place to bits last September. The programme’s usual gentle-stroll-round-a-parish format takes on a little extra poignancy.
Some of the churches are broken, many houses were destroyed, the infrastructure is in tatters, some parishioners don’t have water, most people don’t have electricity. And tourists – the island’s main source of income – aren’t coming, because they can’t get there, or the hotel they were going to stay in doesn’t exist any more.
Simone and Neville’s business, a restaurant and leisure complex on an outlying islet, simply disappeared. Buildings, trees, everything is gone – stolen by Irma. But Simone is remarkably philosophical and sanguine about it: “Hurricane Irma, she gave us a clean slate,” she says, in her lovely Anguillan lilt. “It’s time to do something fresh … when Mother Nature speaks we’re going to obey, we’re going to rebuild.”
Tim the British governor (I know, still!) only arrived just ahead of Irma. Now he’s rushing around the place helping to put things back together, at the same time as trying to get some cash out of the British government for rebuilding. Do we want to see where the foreign secretary stayed when he came over, Tim says? No! Don’t spoil it … too late, this is the bed in which Boris Johnson slept when he blew in briefly after Irma. Now I’m trying not to imagine him in his jimjams, or maybe no jimjams, in the Caribbean … Thanks Tim.
It wasn’t just the human population that suffered and lost homes. Irma destroyed most of the island’s turtle nests as well. Not this little one’s though, a rare hawksbill hatchling – even rarer now – scuttling down what used to be the beach to the ocean. Maybe when it comes back in 20 years or so, to start a family of its own, Anguilla will be back to normal.
People called it an act of God. Not true, says Father Hodge of the Anglican church. “We need to remember that God does not cause evil,” he says. Yeah Irma, you can huff and puff all you like, but you can’t blow away the faith.