Virginia health workers aid hurricane-ravaged islands

This photo provided by Caribbean Buzz shows the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Caribbean Buzz via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Specialists from Virginia are on their way to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were ravaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September.

This morning workers from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) left Richmond International Airport bound for St. Thomas and St. Croix.

“These are public servants, and they live a life of service,” says Bob Mauskapf, the Director of the VDH Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Nearly six months since the catastrophic storms struck, the islands are still dealing with potentially life-threatening impacts to food safety and drinking water.

“It’s still very diminished from before the storm,” Mauskapf describes. “The Department of Health at the Virgin Islands has been day on, stay on since the event happened.”

In all, 13 health workers from Richmond, Henrico, Chesapeake, Fairfax and Culpepper will help to inspect areas like restaurants and salons hit with environmental health hazards.

“The experience that they’re going to garner being down there is going to be very helpful to us, and we could be in the same situation,” explains Mauskapf. “We live on a coast so we could be in a like situation. So it helps us be better prepared as well.”

This outreach was coordinated by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).

The workers are slated to return February 27.

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