MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We've been checking in on Hurricane Irma as it heads to Florida, but we want to be sure we acknowledge the damage it has already done to many of the islands in the Caribbean. In Barbuda, 1,700 evacuated residents have taken shelter on a sister island, Antigua. The nation cut a lucky break when Hurricane Jose turned and missed both islands. But the ruin left in the wake of Irma has left much to rebuild. For more, we go now to freelance journalist and Antigua native Anika Kentish. Anika, thanks so much for speaking with us.
ANIKA KENTISH: Yes. Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: Anika, the prime minister says that 95 percent of the buildings on Barbuda have been damaged. Have you seen that? And what about Antigua?
KENTISH: I have. And to be very honest, you know, sometimes when you hear politicians make such statements, you wonder if it is exactly the way that they say. There might be some exaggeration for political points. But when I got to Barbuda on Thursday afternoon, I mean, it was every bit as bad as he painted that picture. And, unfortunately, Barbuda is going to have to rebuild from scratch.
MARTIN: What was it like to - what can you tell us about the process of evacuating virtually the entire population of the island? How was that done? And how did that go? And how are people feeling now?
KENTISH: Well, I'm actually at one of the shelters now. I just arrived when you called because I wanted to speak to some of the Barbudans. But when I was there at first, there were a lot of people who were saying, well, I don't know. If I go to Antigua, then what? But then the authorities have been saying, you stay here and then what? And so, you know, they were able to sell the case that at least you have a better chance of getting access to certain resources, getting access to infrastructure while we figure out what we're going to do in Barbuda for the long term.
Now that said, it was a monumental task in evacuating more than 1,500 people. Some people had access to their own boats or had relatives who had fishing boats, pleasure boats and other kinds - types of crafts to get over to the islands - to Antigua. But the fact of the matter is the government of Venezuela provided - and you have to forgive me, there's an ambulance passing by...
MARTIN: We can hear it, yes.
KENTISH: The government has - right - the government of Venezuela provided two military aircraft. And they also provided a medical team. And the government of Trinidad and Tobago provided a helicopter. That with the Monserrat ferry, which accommodates about 300 people and various - there's tour boats, catamaran cruise-type vessels making multiple trips.
MARTIN: Sure. So, Anika, forgive me. I hate to cut you off because we're - we only have a little time. How are people reacting to the level of destruction there? That must be very hard to take in.
KENTISH: There are some who are just shellshocked. And then there are others who have - I wouldn't say - I would just say that there is kind of a helplessness because you don't know what to do and you do not know where to start. And the fact of the matter is it's going to take a long time before we even figure out where we're going to start.
MARTIN: That's freelance journalist Anika Kentish speaking to us from Antigua about the situation in Antigua and Barbuda, which suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Irma. Anika, thanks so much for speaking with us.
KENTISH: Thanks again for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.