By Alexander Britell
In a major sign of strength for hard-hit St Barth, the island’s famous Gustav III airport is officially open for commerical operations.
The airport has begun taking commercial flights from carriers like Air Antilles (out of Guadeloupe) and Tradewind Aviation (out of San Juan).
The latter, Tradewind, has been at the forefront of the island’s relief efforts, regularly flying free relief flights for the first three days after the runway was cleared.
The island also got a boost from France President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Wednesday to assess damage and discuss restoration efforts.
“St Barths was hit hard but there is strong will there and desire to rebound quickly,” Tradewind Aviation Co-Owner David Zipkin told Caribbean Journal. “I am encouraged by the progress we’ve already seen and optimistic that a great winter season is still possible and indeed likely.”
The airport’s reopening comes as several other milestones have been reached in the island’s climb to recovery: water production is at full production, as is production at the electrical plant — with Gustavia and St Jean the first to have electricity restored.
The island’s Garbage treatment center is at full production, while all roadways have been cleared and are now accessible.
The island’s commercial harbor is also functional, having received its first shipment on Monday including generators, food and supplies for residents.
“St. Barts is thankful for any support France may provide, as well as volunteers sent by Guadalupe, Martinique and others,” says Nils Dufau, president of the Territorial Tourism Committee of St Barts. “The population of St. Barts has shown great courage and exemplary solidarity in the response to the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.”
The state of the island’s hotel stock is still not clear; most hotels were closed at the time and have not yet released completed full damage assessements.