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UN secretary-general surveys Irma's devastation in Barbuda

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald on

Published in Weather News

But some, like Devon Warner, have come for good. He arrived Friday with his wife and 16-year-old daughter, the day before Guterres' visit. The roof on their home is gone but Warner, a fisherman, said that's OK -- he'll manage somehow. He has no plans to return to Antigua, which opened its doors to storm survivors from both Barbuda and Dominica, where Guterres plans to visit Sunday.

"As much as you're able to walk free and shop, you're not home," Warner said about Antigua, which he described as "like being in prison."

He had been living in the home of "a very nice lady" in Antigua but he didn't want to stay any longer.

"I'm home," he said, as he struggled to cover his sister's roof with a blue plastic tarp. "This is where I want to be. This is where I have to be. I can't do anything in Antigua."

Like others, Warner said he's frustrated by the slow pace of recovery and wonders how he will rebuild.

Guterres also wondered how long it would take before people could return to their lives. As he met with two residents, he peppered them with questions. Both men recounted how, during the storm, they had communicated with flashlights, and residents ran from house to house to stay alive.

Browne, the prime minister, noted that most of Barbuda's 1,800 residents are self-employed and had built their homes with supplies purchased with cash. Most did not have insurance, he told Guterres.

Rebuilding the island and making it resilient for the next storm, Browne pointed out, was just one of his government's many challenges as it struggles to help the island recover while also taking care of its residents until they can return to their homes. As a middle-income country, Antigua has had to borrow money at commercial rates and the storms are a financial setback. He hopes that having Guterres see the island himself will help make a difference.

"For us to take on hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild clearly will create another problem," Browne said. "It will worsen our debt ... so borrowing is not the solution."

The current crisis, he said, warrants some level of debt relief and needs the advocacy of someone like Guterres, who concluded his visit by asking nations to take a stronger stance on climate change.

"He had an opportunity to walk a good portion of Barbuda. I think he would have done three miles walking and would have observed first hand the extent of the devastation," Browne said. "He didn't need anyone to tell him. ... He came to his own conclusion that it was a transformation of paradise, literally, into hell."

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