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In St. Vincent, Beryl almost wipes the smallest inhabited island, Mayreau, off the map | Economy

Mayreau is one of the smallest inhabited islands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is so small that it is barely visible on the Caribbean map – a dot. Hurricane Beryl almost wiped it off the map.

Beryl devastated everything in its path, ripping roofs off schools, crumbling houses and stripping almost every leaf from the trees on the 1.2 square kilometre island, which is home to about 360 people.

“Everything was flying around,” Mayreau resident James Alexander recalls of the storm. “I saw a tank full of water rise into the air and swirl through the air.”

Beryl made landfall off the Caribbean island of Carriacou in Barbados and near St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Monday, July 1, as a Category 4 hurricane, leaving a trail of destruction as it continued to move westward, later strengthening into a Category 5 hurricane.

It was the first storm in the Atlantic to develop into a Category 5 hurricane. It claimed at least eleven lives on its way through the Caribbean.

Other islands in the Grenadines archipelago, such as Canouan, also suffered severe damage. But cries for help from the small island of Mayreau were largely ignored.

Most lost everything: 98 percent of the island’s buildings were severely damaged, according to the latest report by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency.

When the storm struck, some Mayreau residents sought refuge in the Church of the Immaculate Conception. But the sturdy building, built over 100 years ago from local stone, was no match for the force of the Category 4 hurricane.

The people who had sought shelter in the church only managed to escape with difficulty. Miraculously, they escaped unharmed, but suffered some minor injuries. Since only a small clinic, which was also damaged, and a nurse were affected, the fact that the injuries were minor was the only good news for the people of Mayreau.

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The storm ripped off the roofs of every house on the island, leaving many as piles of dust and rubble.

“This church suffered a terrible fate with the passage of Hurricane Beryl and is an indication of what happened across the island,” said Luke Browne, former health minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as he stood in front of the rubble of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Browne said he had been visiting Mayreau since he was a child and had seen the community “grow and thrive.” He asked for help in rebuilding his island home.

The residents of Mayreau are now stranded without electricity and without shelter – not even a roof – to protect them from the sun and rain.

The islanders desperately need everything from food and water to tents and baby food for the 14 youngest residents.

Mayreau is located far from the mainland and can only be reached via a four-hour boat ride from St. Vincent.

While some help is expected to arrive from the surrounding islands, the need is enormous and the help is only guaranteed for a short time. There are no vehicles on Mayreau, so residents form human chains and pass vital water bottles from hand to hand to the makeshift shelter.

The small population depends on tourism and fishing, both of which were disrupted by the storm.

– AP