Virgin Islands Officials Say Send Food, Not Troops With AM-Hugo
CHRISTIANSTED, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) _ Local officials complained Friday that the Virgin Islands remained without any major U.S. relief five days after the devastation caused by Hurricane Hugo, even though federal forces were sent to control civil disorder.
″I think the governor was wrong in telling the people the military was coming without telling them (when) food was coming, water was coming,″ said Territorial Sen. Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal.
Lt. Gov. Derek Hodge, the No. 2 official in this popular resort, announced Friday that Hugo left homeless about 90 percent of St. Croix’s population, or more than 45,000 people. St. Croix, about 70 miles east of Puerto Rico, is the main island in the group that includes St. Thomas and St. John.
Hodge said damage was tentatively estimated at $4 billion.
He also said the storm killed at least four people in the U.S. Virgin Islands and injured 700 others. A Red Cross official however put the deaths at six.
Hugo slammed into the islands Sunday during its sweep of the northeastern Caribbean, knocking out water supplies, electricity and communications.
″The island is almost a total disaster,″ said Hodge in a radio broadcast.
He appealed for the National Guard, the police and other public employees to return to work in full force despite the continued chaos on the island. He said the National Guard was operating at 40-percent strength and the police at 80 percent.
Belardo de O’Neal said she and four other senators had met with Gov. Alexander Farrelly on Friday to find out when people can expect relief supplies.
The St. Croix Red Cross vice chairman, Evelyn Crittenden, complained that the army failed to promptly fly in food, clothes, bedding and medicine.
″Here we are, and this is what I have,″ she said, pointing to some old clothes piled on a table and the floor of an office.
She said the military police from the mainland, who were guarding buildings with M-16 rifles and patrolling in four-wheel drive vehicles, were intimidating people.
″People are scared to come out,″ she said. ″This is crazy. We don’t live like this. We’re Americans. We’re not people from the Third World.″
Former territorial Sen. Alicia Torres James said the Bush administration should have sent relief supplies right away instead of soldiers.
″Yes, there was some looting, but these were hungry people who need food for their kids,″ she said.
Hodge said federal disaster specialists arrived on St. Croix on Tuesday but were unable to request immediate help because of communications problems.
In Washington, officials announced that a group of congressmen and administration representatives will fly to the Caribbean on Saturday to assess damage on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The congressmen, led by Rep. George Miller, D.-Calif., were to consider any special aid requests from local officials.
On Wednesday, President Bush declared the Virgin Islands a disaster area and ordered in the mainland forces.
Hodge said the Virgin Islands needs ″everything from wrenches to chain saws to medical supplies.″
St. Croix was placed under a dusk-to-dawn curfew after a looting rampage that cleared shelves in everything from supermarkets to jewelry stores.
The National Guard has acknowledged that some of its members took part in the looting, and several witnesses said some police also were involved.
On Friday, virtually every store in Christiansted, the capital of St. Croix, appeared to have been cleaned out. There were no more reports of looting.
Coast Guard and U.S. Navy vessels, which had helped evacuate people panicked by the looting Thursday, remained offshore Friday. Some people were leaving, however, by commerical flights at the re-opened St. Croix Airport.