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While the Caribbean is no stranger to hurricanes, this September brought on one of the strongest storms the islands have seen. Hurricane Irma was recorded as a top-end Category 5 hurricane, which recorded winds of 185 mph (298 km/h) at its peak.
One of the hardest hit was the tiny British island of Anguilla, which sits east of Puerto Rico. As torrential rain and destructive sea surges encroached upon the island, Nisha Dupuis, a 19-year-old radio broadcaster for Radio Anguilla, decided to stay on air throughout the entire storm to give live, up-to-the-minute reports on what her fellow islanders could expect. The station was reported to be in the direct path of Hurricane Irma on the morning of Wednesday, September 6. The entire time, Dupuis never left her post.
Throughout the broadcast, Dupuis kept a calm and steady voice while letting her listener know how they could protect themselves from the impending hurricane, and what they could expect in the days to come. As hurricane-force winds rattled throughout the station and interrupted Dupuis during her show, she forged on to continue reporting and keep everyone updated.
On the air, listeners called in by the dozens to ask Dupuis and the Radio Anguilla staff questions about the storm path, as well as to send messages to family and friends to let loved ones know they were safe. As Dupuis explained to CBC As It Happens, “We were trying to protect the equipment (in the studio) and protect the board, while still receiving calls from people who were in distress.”
In an interview with Here and Now, Dupuis explained that she and the rest of the team from Radio Anguilla were committed to keeping their listeners safe and would continue to operate on a generator for as long as possible so they could keep people informed of what was happening.
“I was terrified, to be honest,” she recalled. “When it really sank in for me was the 911 calls. We were relaying information to the Department of Disaster Management and there were people calling. This one man, I will never forget what it sounded like speaking to him, he had a baby in the room and his shutters were being blown out and was like ‘What do we do next?'” Dupuis’ mother, a hospital worker, worked through the storm as well.
The hazards were very real. The New York Times reports that the hurricane badly damaged an estimated 90 percent of the island’s government buildings, electricity infrastructure, and the country’s main water supply.
While so many journalists enter potentially dangerous situations while reporting on natural disasters, we must tip our hat to Nisha for staying committed to keeping her fellow islanders safe.
Join us in recognizing Nisha’s bravery on Twitter, @BritandCo.