Tradewind Aviation contributes to Irma relief in St. Barts

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Twisted wreckage and a denuded landscape on St. Barts.
Twisted wreckage and a denuded landscape on St. Barts. Photo Credit: David Zipkin

Two days after Category 5 Hurricane Irma decimated St. Barts, air charter operator Tradewind Aviation has been flying supplies to the French island, and that relief mission continues one week after the disaster.

"We started our relief flights last Friday, paused on Saturday while Hurricane Jose scooted by, resumed on Sunday and have been flying nonstop since then," said David Zipkin, Tradewind's co-owner and vice president.

Tradewind, flying from its Caribbean base in San Juan, brought food, water and generators on the first flights. When those supplies began arriving by boat, the focus shifted to chainsaws and tarps.

Tradewind also helped evacuate more than 200 people from the island.

"We have people on the scene, including myself for the first few days, assessing what is needed and relaying purchase orders to our team in San Juan," Zipkin said.

The French government sent supplies by boat but those did not reach the island until Sept. 11. "They have not offered any support to us. We are just doing it," he said.

Many of the buildings are still standing, although a large portion need repairs, primarily to roofs. "It's all doable and the spirit is strong, so they will get it done," Zipkin said.

Zipkin said one of the most jarring images is the scenery, or lack of it. "The winds tore all the leaves from the trees," he said.

Electricity has been restored to the capital of Gustavia and in sections of St. Jean in the northern part of the island.

French president Emmanuel Macron toured St. Barts on Wednesday after visiting St. Martin Tuesday. He pledged to rebuild both islands.

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