Dougie Wallace

Devastation in the Caribbean

Dougie travelled to Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands six weeks after Hurricane Irma. The island of around 300 inhabitants still had no electricity or running water and the schools remain closed.

Almost all houses were damaged. Those made of wood were flattened to the flat concrete platforms where they had once stood. Concrete buildings lost roofs and walls. Dougie said:

“We took a lifeboat to Jost Van Dyke through rough water and torrential rain. It gave me small taste of the hurricane conditions that had wrecked the island. We only had a day to shoot so I had to make it work. I used a zip lock bag and a hair band to keep my lens dry and shot pictures through the rain. Some of the people we met had lost everything. It felt like they were the last priority and nobody else was going to help them. But they were still smiling and happy to talk. It moved me.”


As a commercial ferryboat rests upside down on top of the remains of his restaurant, Sydney Junior, or Jo Jo for short, was in high spirits as he told the story of the night Hurricane Irma hit.

He was at home with his girlfriend hoping to miss the worst of it. As the hurricane started, the house shook, and eventually the roof was ripped off and the walls started to fall.

Jo Jo tells us how he fled in panic, running to take shelter in the concrete restaurant, ‘it picked me up like a bird and threw me across the road and into the bushes.’

He lost his home and his business that night, but seemed stoic about the future. His ShelterBox tent is pitched opposite his restaurant so he can be nearby to rebuild his business.

A man holding his shelter canopy pole next to a hanging Bob Marley towel


A family in rain getting into their shelter

Carlton is in his 70s. He has lived all of his life on Jost Van Dyke. His yellow concrete house on a hill had an incredible view of the bay.

On the night Hurricane Irma hit, Carlton lost everything. The roof was ripped off his house, and the inside looked like a blender had been through it.

‘I can’t live in my house. The storm took it. I’ve got no roof. No stove to cook on. I couldn’t save anything, just a few clothes. But that’s life, you know. That’s life.’

Carlton was sleeping in a ShelterBox tent pitched in the garden of his ruined home. It was raining hard the day we saw him, but the tent gave him somewhere dry and safe to be.


Wendell E. Callwood is 65-years-old. ‘People call me Uncle Wendell,’ he tells us with a big grin. He is a restaurant owner, born and bred on Jost Van Dyke.

Pointing to an empty space where his two-storey home and business once stood, Uncle Wendell said: ‘This was where my kitchen used to be and above it was my living quarters. It wiped me out. I lost my house, my business, my passport, my money. They all blew away.’

All that’s left of Wendell’s restaurant is the remains of the bar. Scribbles from customers still visible on the remaining walls.

‘The hurricane blew strong wind… It was terrible. I’m 65-years-old and I didn’t know I’d live long enough to see a thing like this.’

‘But… my life is here, I’m happy to still be alive.’

A smiling man in front of a Shelterbox tent


A man in front of a police vehicle surrounded by debris

Sargent Murray is Jost Van Dyke’s jovial and helpful Sargent. He had a guesthouse on the islands which he believed was made of concrete, so when Irma hit, he went there to ride it out.

As the wind picked up and the house began to rattle, the most terrible noises started to fill the air.

Chunks starts to fly off his house so he dived under a piece of wood, curled up on the floor, and gripped the wood over his head for three-and-a-half hours whilst the wind tried to rip it out of his hands.

‘I didn’t think I was going to survive,’ he said.

All that remained of his guesthouse was an insanely twisted pile of metal. It is unbelievable that he got out relatively unscathed, but in the retelling of the story, you can tell the experience will haunt him for a long time.


Kalisha and Daniel are a young married couple with two young sons. When the hurricane hit, the family sheltered from the storm. Kalisha said, ‘It was so noisy, and the noise kept on going and going and going for hours.’

Throughout the storm, their children said, ‘Mummy, I don’t want to die.’

As the storm went on, all they could see was white – the air was thick with seawater carried in the 185 mph winds, as well as other flying debris and, of course, thundering rain.

They lost all of their possessions including their clothes and furniture and all of the children’s toys.

ShelterBox gave the George family a tent to provide a private space for the family to be together. The tent was pitched on a roadside near their parents, and Kalisha was happy to have a private space away from the family.

A family of four in front of their Shelter


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