As Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida, current and former residents of the Caribbean islands already battered by the powerful storm had a message for the rest of the world Saturday: Remember us.
"Islands like ours tend to get forgotten after storms," former San Antonio Spurs player Tim Duncan, who grew up on St. Croix, said in a Players' Tribune essay.
"We’re remote, which makes it hard to deliver supplies quickly, cheaply and adequately," the NBA star wrote as he announced a personal $250,000 donation to hurricane relief effort and a crowdfunding page to raise more money. He promised to match up to $1 million in donations.
Irma pummeled parts of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands as it a cut a path of destruction through the islands of the Caribbean, killing at least 20 people.
Now, Hurricane Jose is threatening to menace parts of the region again. A hurricane warning was in effect Saturday for St. Martin and St. Barts, islands already ravaged by Irma.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, authorities say four people died on St. Thomas. Irma's winds ripped off the roof of the island's only hospital, and U.S. military helicopters have evacuated critically ill patients to St. Croix, which suffered only minor damage in the storm.
On Saturday, two cruise ship lines, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, said they were diverting ships to St. Thomas to deliver relief supplies and pick up stranded travelers.
The storm wiped out all of the electricity and telephone service on St. John, the smallest of the three major U.S. Virgin Islands, and knocked out about 70% of the utility infrastructure on St. Thomas, Rep. Stacey Plaskett, the Virgin Islands' delegate to Congress, told USA TODAY on Saturday.
Irma has been "really catastrophic to the islands of St. Thomas and St. John," Plaskett said during a telephone interview from San Juan, Puerto Rico, as she waited for the U.S. Coast Guard to transport her to St. Thomas.
St. Croix's Henry E. Rohlsen Airport is open for commercial traffic, but the airport on St. Thomas is focused on hurricane relief efforts. St. John has no airport.
The U.S. military and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are on the ground providing hurricane relief, she said. But Plaskett said Virgin Islanders, both in the islands and living on the mainland, are desperate for news about their relatives and the recovery efforts.
In addition to Duncan, another celebrity with close ties to the islands is throwing a spotlight on the devastation.
Country star Kenny Chesney established the Love for Love City Foundation to benefit St. John and the neighboring British Virgin Islands. Chesney has a home on St. John, which is nicknamed Love City.