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Sister of Irma victim on St. John: 'They're still in survival mode'

By JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent

September 11. 2017 8:47PM
Debris litters the streets on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma struck last week. (COURTESY)

St. John was among one of the hardest hit areas when Hurricane Irma roared through last week. (COURTESY)

STRATHAM — Like many living stateside, Kelley Atlee feels helpless.

Ever since Hurricane Irma pummeled the island of St. John as a Category 5 monster, the Stratham woman has been worried sick about her brother, Derek Watkins,

Watkins, 47, is a bartender who moved to the Caribbean island a year ago. Keeping updated on his safety and well-being has been a challenge.

After Irma hit St. John, Atlee said she received a text message from her brother saying he was safe. He then posted a few messages on Facebook last week saying he and his truck were OK, but that his house was “not so good.”

A message posted Friday said he and others who survived Irma were preparing for the possibility of Hurricane Jose — another powerful storm that formed behind Irma.

Atlee said she also received a recorded message from her brother saying he would pull through.

“He had a quivery voice. He didn’t sound like himself,” she said Monday.

The lack of communication has made it difficult for family to get a real sense of how Watkins and others are faring.

“You think of the trauma of what they’ve been through. They’re still in survival mode,” said Atlee, who worries about the food and water supply, shelter for the victims and reports of looting.

Atlee has scrambled to reach out to government leaders to make sure help is on the way to St. John, the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands — a region some feared had been forgotten as attention turned to Irma’s trek to Florida.

The worst part for family at home, Atlee said, is the lack of information.

“My brother is a fighter. He’s always been a fighter and I know his energies are toward helping other people,” she said.

jschreiber@newstote.com


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