London News & Search
The family of a British pregnant woman and her sister have said they are “out of their minds with worry” as they have not heard from the pair since Hurricane Irma struck the island of Barbuda.
Afiya Frank, 27 and 29-year-old former beauty queen Asha Frank had been in touch with family in Suffolk and London at 10pm on Wednesday night but they have not been heard from since.
They were on the island with their father Mackenzie Frank, who is from Barbuda, while their mother is in the UK with her sister Ruth Bolton desperately waiting for information.
Afiya, who is more than six months pregnant, was due to fly to the UK next week because the Carribean island’s tiny hospital cannot deliver her first child.
Her aunt Ms Bolton, who lives in Suffolk, told the Standard she has been up all night waiting for news from her two nieces and brother-in-law.
She said her and her sister were “going out of their minds” with worry.
They last heard from family members via messenger just before the category 5 storm swept through the island, flattening buildings as it continued on its deadly path through the Caribbean.
“The three of them were all in the house together and they had boarded up the property,” Ms Bolton said.
“Since then we have not heard anything.
“[Claire] is going out of her mind. Having said that, she is resilient. She went through Hurricane Luis [in 1995] and after that we lost contact with Barbuda for a week – but that was before mobile phones. Now we are so used to having instant contact.”
Ms Bolton has set up a fundraising page in the hope of getting a satellite phone across to the island so people can get in touch with their friends and families around the world.
The page has raised more than £3,000 in a matter of hours.
“Through the appeal we have been in touch with a boat that is attempting to reach Antigua and Barbuda this morning and they have offered to take a satellite phone with them if we can get it to them.
“Trying to find where we can get hold of one nearby is hard – I think our next step is to see if we can get one in Miami and have it shipped over.”
Ms Bolton said: “Afiya works the season at the Barbuda Belle resort, then was planning on coming here to have her baby and go back and work the season again next year. I doubt Barbuda Belle is even there anymore.”
Asha – who works as a local councillor – had been helping with emergency procedures before the family lost contact.
“I just want to hug my nieces and speak to them,” Ms Bolton said. “I’ve called the British High Commission and reported them as not heard from,” said Ruth. “There is talk of evacuating the island tomorrow.”
The appeal comes as Prime Minister Gaston Browne confirmed Barbuda had been left “almost uninhabitable” by the hurricane.
“It is a total devastation – Barbuda now is literally a rubble,” he told local TV and radio station ABS.
By 10am UK time on Thursday, Hurricane Irma – the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic – had left at least nine people dead.
The storm destroyed nearly all buildings on the island of Barbuda, killing a two-year-old child as a family tried to escape, before wreaking havoc on the French territories of St Martin and St Barts.
The British overseas territory of Anguilla was among the first islands to be hit by the hurricane.
Britons have been urged by the Foreign Office to follow evacuation orders, while states of emergency have been declared in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida – amid fears Miami could be struck directly by the hurricane.
London News & Search