Power back on near Grape Hall, Barbados. What a mess!

Hurricane straps – I had them, Victor Holder didn’t.

More than a few Bajan homes lost large pieces or the whole roof in Hurricane Tomas, but I’d love to know how many severely damaged homes were equipped with hurricane straps and tabs. Not many, I’d wager.

My roof shook and I lost a window that didn’t have a board over it but the damage was minimal all things considered. Some of my neighbours didn’t fare so well – some through lack of preparation and others because their homes or additions are nothing more than slapped-together bits and pieces. I can’t fault a hardworking man who hasn’t money for a roof over his family other than pushing a couple of old chattel homes together. That’s life in Barbados for many folks, and whether we get a building code or not it’s not going to change the old homes. Not for decades anyway.

So please don’t take it as a criticism against Victor Holder when I mention that he didn’t have hurricane straps installed.

I saw Victor in The Nation looking forlorn and beaten inside his now-roofless and wind-emptied home. It’s obvious from the photos that the home didn’t have straps, and probably wasn’t much more than ticky-tacky the way it was constructed. I don’t know how old the home is/was but there’s not much left of it that’s good for anything except a beach fire. (Photo, The Nation: All is lost)

There are more homes in Barbados constructed like Victor’s than are constructed like the home where I live. Once again, that’s life on this rock – but that is no reason why we can’t insist that newly constructed homes meet certain standards. “Standards” – there’s that word again, the word that we have such trouble with. We don’t have standards in many areas, and where we do have standards we either don’t enforce them, or we enforce them for some but not others.

Standards. We don’t do standards so well in Barbados.

Almost three years ago, our friend and structural engineer Grenville Phillips II wrote of his exasperation with our Government’s failure to mandate a building code, proper building practices and inspections. You need to read his whole article again. Here’s a sample…

“I have come to the unfortunate realization that we are doomed to experience the misery and economic setback that other Caribbean islands experienced after being examined by major hurricanes.  These countries only paid attention to building standards after their buildings were weighed in the balance and found wanting.

I have given up hope that the Town Planning department will accept their responsibility to ensure that houses are both designed and built properly, until they actually see the devastation that they could have prevented…

…During the past 12 years, I have rarely seen a house built that confirms to the minimum structural requirements of our national building standard.  It is very distressing to report that every one of those sub-standard houses could have been built properly at no additional cost.  There seems to be a strange belief among builders and homeowners that they can somehow realize good quality construction by simply wishing it to be so.

…I have decided to no longer publish articles on the substandard building practises in Barbados. If there is a single builder in Barbados building structurally safe houses, then please contact me and I would happily publish the construction photos and promote your business free of cost.”

From the Weighed in the Balance article Advice to Homeowners

Hurricane? You haven’t seen anything yet!

As Ian Bourne of The Bajan Reporter so well points out, “hurricane” Tomas was a nothing little swipe of the tail for our island. Soon after passing Barbados, Tomas lost its hurricane rating and was downgraded to a tropical storm. So we took a passing hit from the tail of a weakening quasi-hurricane and just look at the damage! Can you imagine if Tomas had of passed directly over Barbados as a Class 2 hurricane or worse?

We can blame our leadership for our lack of standards, and they deserve the blame. But we also should consider how our culture of “doan worry, ‘gin be alright” gets in the way advancement and prevents our leadership from acting. There’s nothing wrong with prayer as protection from hurricanes – but storm boards, hurricane straps, roof clips and strong homes built to standards shouldn’t be ignored.

Those who rely only upon prayer for hurricane protection should read their Bibles too – something about not putting the Lord to the test.

Since my friends asked: the old car survived

My old car isn’t much worse for the pounding it took during Hurricane Tomas. Thankfully there was no damage to the windows. As my friends know, the body wasn’t in great shape to begin with (which makes me wonder how many cars will receive shiny new paint jobs courtesy of insurance. A hurricane can be a blessing to some!) The left side of the car was parked against the house and protected to some extent, but the exposed right side turned into a magnet for blowing marl and debris. Those who know who I am will now be seen comparing the right side to the left side!


And now, back to cleaning up.



Filed under Barbados, Building Collapse, Disaster

12 responses to “Power back on near Grape Hall, Barbados. What a mess!


    Don’t forget Clive – God is a Bajan – and ‘he’ don’ sen’ hurricanes here…. so…. no hurricane straps required to hold down roofs…..

  2. Photo Gallery has first batch of pics up, if anyone wants to see what I saw while driving and charging my mobile on Sunday…

  3. eddie

    i agree that straps go a long way to helping keep a roof on and for just maybe a few hindred dollars ( materials and labour) but i dont think that one should legislate making the cost of living higher or making impossible for people to afford a house, we all live to the best of our means. i think e should use the persuasive method to get people who can afford them to use straps, shutters, fire prevention etc


    I’m not supporting your views on this eddie. Most Bajans do not seem to have much of a sense of prority values. I bet if you went into the homes of most those whose roofs blew off – you’d likely see in many if not most – satelite TV, a big able stereo player and plenty CDs, Nike sneakers, probably a bottle of Hennessy and so on…. they COULD afford to strap down their roof… it’s just that it wasn’t important.

  5. Lady Anon

    Actually, when Tomas affected Barbados, he was still a Tropical Storm…sustained winds were only 70 mph – not yet hurricane status.

  6. RRRicky

    It felt like a hurricane to me!

  7. cor blimey

    BFP is right when they say “Can you imagine if Tomas had of passed directly over Barbados as a Class 2 hurricane or worse?”

    This should be a big warning for Barbados. We got lucky again. Next time we might not be so lucky.

  8. Politically Tired

    We have our electric back on in St Elizabeth, St Joseph this morning, but still no water. I think this should be a big wake up call for the Islands, the utility company’s say they weren’t prepared! why not, its Hurricane season?
    People don’t insure the houses because of the expense, when a 20 x 30 wooden structure cost $800 to insure & some people are earning only $7 an hour, how do you save for that every year?

  9. Johnny Postle

    Here is my take on the building code and the cost to retrofit your house towards withstanding somewhat the ravages of a hurricane
    1. Make building materials afforadable so that the averagge bajan particularly the poor can build according to the code.
    2. Stop speaking about a building code like everyone has the ability to comply to its specifications
    3. Provide building grants and eliminate VAT and import duties on building materials.
    4. Tell the damn Architects, draftsman, engineers to help in the cause by providing reasonable rates for the average man. Not everyone got Politician dollars or disposable income like the rich.
    5. Make food cheap so bajans can eat healthy and think healthy. A hungry man ain’t interested in house until fall down, because he is busy trying to figure how to put food on the table.

    Fullfill these request and the homes in Barbados will afford to build according to the code.

  10. Pingback: Global Voices in English » Barbados: Building Codes

  11. Karl Watson

    Now that the state funeral of the Hon David Thompson is over, may he rest in peace, and Barbados is in full recovery mode from Tomas, we need to spare a thought for our sister islands of St Vincent and St Lucia. I have seen some aerial footage and other photographs…link to stormcarib.com for the St Lucia reports…and they are bone chilling. Both islands have suffered major damage and now the prospects for Haiti look daunting with reports of heavy rain falling over the western portion of Hispaniola. Remember that hundreds of thousands of people there are still living in tents.

  12. whistling frog

    The “Whistling Frog” of 2nd Nov 2010@15:17hrs and 2ndNov 2010 @16:39hrs has Absolutely NO Connection with this Whistling frog,,,,,,,,, He ,She <It,is most assuredly,definitely,fraudently,unequivocally,literary far removed from any subject matter the real Whistling frog may or may not or have or have not ever made known in whatsoever manner….
    In this event the real Whistling frog will now cease to exist under that Pseudonym.