Information Melford Nicholas said that the order had been lifted from midnight following a decision taken at Cabinet on Thursday.
“The Cabinet has agreed to lift the mandatory evacuation order in Barbuda and that is separate and distinct from the state of emergency which still obtains in Barbuda and the underlying reason for lifting the mandatory evacuation order comes on the heel of the general state of improvement in the environment in Barbuda,” he said.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne had on September 8 announced that Barbuda was “uninhabitable” and that there would be “be a mandatory evacuation of every single person” there.
“Nothing is functional in Barbuda,” he told radio listeners after making a visit to the battered island hours after Hurricane Irma pummelled the tiny Caribbean country as it made its way through the Leeward Islands.
“My preliminary assessment is that perhaps the cost of rebuilding is estimated at EC$100 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) I want to tell you it will cost hundreds of millions because most of the property there are not salvageable,” he added.
At least 46 people began making their way back home, and some speaking on radio here, said they were pleased with the decision of the government to lift the evacuation order.
“It is our home, it is our island and we don’t want to leave it deserted. We want to go back to clean up our place and start living our lives,” one unidentified woman said, while another resident said ‘we spent thousands of dollars building our homes, we need to go back to clean it up”.
One man told listeners “we think we should not be here, after the hurricane we should have gone in and clean up with the army”.
Nicholas said that significant work had been done by various teams including those from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in helping in the clean-up campaign.
He said that a degree of vector control has been implemented through fogging and the treatment of surface waters and catchments to eradicate mosquitoes and larvae.
“But I think most importantly, the ability of the remaining clean-up effort has been enhanced because the roadways have been pretty much cleared of debris … to the extent that the clinical facilities at the Hanna Thomas Hospital has been repaired to the extent that emergency medical services can indeed be delivered.”
Nicholas said that while a mobile medical service is already functional, potable water and electricity for the public are yet to be restored.
He said a tank capable of holding some 100,000 gallons of potable water is to be shipped to Barbuda at the weekend while the parts for the reverse osmosis plant, damaged by Hurricane Irma have already been ordered.
He said that the police and the military would be providing law and order as the situation demands under the state of emergency for the estimated 1,600 residents of Barbuda.