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‘Long road ahead’ after Irma: Former Yarmouth County resident thankful for help from home

Gary Cottreau’s home in Tortola prior to Irma (left). Cottreau’s home in Tortola after Irma (right). The storm left rooms upstairs “a complete disaster.”
Gary Cottreau’s home in Tortola prior to Irma (left). Cottreau’s home in Tortola after Irma (right). The storm left rooms upstairs “a complete disaster.”

Gary Cottreau, a Wedgeport native, has lived in the Caribbean for two decades

A former Yarmouth County resident who experienced the fury of hurricane Irma says the areas impacted by the storm – including Tortola (the largest of the British Virgin Islands), where he lives – face a long recovery, but he says there are positive signs.

Gary Cottreau, a Wedgeport native who has lived in the Caribbean for two decades, also says he has been touched by the support he has received from his native village. A benefit for him and his family was held recently at the Wedgeport legion hall.

“The support from family and friends around Nova Scotia has been amazing,” Cottreau said. “It puts a smile on my face and brings a tear to my eye, knowing that so many people are thinking of you and wishing you well.”

The monstrous, category 5 hurricane killed four people in the British Virgin Islands.

Cottreau and his family were not hurt.

Cottreau said he was still dealing with the insurance company regarding his house and business. Since the storm – and what it did to their home -- his wife and children have been staying in England, where his wife is from. Cottreau has remained on the island.

Cottreau runs a catamaran charter service that offers day cruises. One of his vessels was OK after Irma, but the other was underwater.

Gary Cottreau, formerly of Wedgeport, first sailed to the Caribbean 24 years ago and has lived there full-time for 20 years.

Describing Irma on his Facebook page, Cotteau said the first half of the storm was bad enough, but it was nothing like the second half.

“I was outside during the eye, re-secured a few things around the house, said hi to the neighbours and (went) back inside for round two,” he wrote. He and his family and some pets were in the back room of the house, he said, “and the noise was incredible, both wind and loud crashing sounds.”

After about three hours, he said, he was able to look around the house, surprised to see most lower-level windows intact, “but my heart sank when I went upstairs to our bedrooms and I could see the sky. The rooms were a complete disaster.”

Cottreau – who has been staying at a friend’s house since Irma – later provided an update on the recovery effort, saying everyday they were seeing improvements with roads, fewer lineups for gasoline and more food in the stores.

“Many people have left the island so it is easier for government to make repairs,” he said. “Power is being restored to some buildings in the main town, but it will still be a couple of months before we see it at our house.”

The friend’s home where he has been staying suffered little storm damage, Cottreau said, adding that he has a generator and is doing alright. (The owners of the residence where he’s staying for now are in the U.K., he said.)

“I can see my house from here and every day I go to the house and do a few things,” he said.

One of the things that has struck Cottreau is how much greener the island has been getting since the storm, which he says is encouraging.

Referring to the recovery work, he said there is “a long road ahead, but we’re getting there.”

 

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