- Operations - Inferno at Antiguan harbour

By Conor Feasey

Inferno at Antiguan harbour

Falmouth Harbour was ablaze in the early hours of October 3rd as Antigua and Barbuda were caught in the midst of a raging tropical storm…

An inferno engulfed Falmouth Harbour, Antigua as Tropical Storm Phillipe travelled across the islands in the early hours of this morning (Tuesday 3rd). Whilst some reports claim it was instigated by lightning, the cause of the fire is still under investigation. No deaths or injuries have been reported at this moment in time. Government authorities are also reporting widespread flooding on both islands.

“First and foremost, the most important thing is that everyone is safe. No one has been hurt or injured,” Devin Joseph, Yachting and Sailing Business Development Manager, Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority tells SuperyachtNews. “The commercial building, however, has been fully destroyed, which housed the Dock Master's Office, Cloggy’s restaurant, Turtle Surf Shop, Skulduggery bar and café,  Ari fish shop, Dockside supermarket, Marina Gym, and Seabreeze bar and café.”

The building also had a BWA Yachting office on the second floor and an Access Marine office on the ground floor. “So all of those businesses that supported the yachting industry for the marina unfortunately have been completely destroyed,” adds Joseph.

Firefighters have since extinguished the blaze. But the excessively high winds caused by the storm continued to whip up the fire, spreading the flames across the marina, and making progress difficult for rescuers. An explosion caused by a propane tank at one of the restaurants also fueled the fire. 

Severe heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Phillipe is also causing flooding in both Antigua and Barbuda. The Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Service says four to six inches of rainfall are expected over the next two days. 

Both islands were under a tropical storm warning and a flash flood watch as of 4pm on Monday, but authorities have since received numerous calls for assistance from low-lying areas in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Grays Farm, Point and Cooks are the areas mainly affected at this time. Security forces are currently responding to distress calls.

The storm also raised further fears for the yachting community. Notably, government authorities previously cited that a central reason for seizing and attempting to sell Alfa Nero was that in the event of it sinking during a tropical storm or hurricane, it would block the waterways and cause an ecological disaster. This would be severely detrimental to the islands, whose economy is bolstered by the yachting community every year, but Joseph assures that no such cases have occurred.

“To be clear, the channel is completely unobstructed with no sunken yachts or boats impeding the entrance of the harbour,” he says. “All precautions to ensure the harbour is a safe haven for all vessels were taken before the arrival of the storm and no boats were damaged during the fire either.” 

Whilst the costs of the damage remain unclear, Joseph maintains that the impact of the fire on Antigua and Barbuda’s yachting season is minimal. “The marina will remain fully active. I have spoken to the owners and they have already relocated to another office building on the marina,” he says. “Operations, electricity, water and fuel lines are all completely intact. There will obviously need to be repairs to the marina itself, but nothing that will prevent yachts from coming in”. 

The next step is to work with the government in order to support the yachting season and ensure it continues as usual. “As for the marina, the docks and structures are still intact,” says Joesph. “There will be a big cleanup effort to make sure that everything is aesthetically to our standards. But as for operations and so forth, everything will continue as normal. The rest of the marina still offers ample services for boats, as well as plenty of restaurants and shopping opportunities for guests.” 

Whilst it is unfortunate that the marina and its business partners have lost their businesses, the people of Antigua and Barbuda remain resilient in the face of adversity, adds Joseph. “We will simply rebuild and continue to provide the high standards of services and experiences Antigua is renowned to have,” he says.

“We understand that owners, captains, brokers, agents and other well-wishers are concerned, but we are still smiling and ready to welcome everyone to our vibrant yachting season.”

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