Little Cayman residents have been informed that it is not likely that a mandatory evacuation order would be given again for the island, as happened in the run up to Hurricane Dean.
A special meeting held on Little Cayman recently led by Governor Stuart Jack and Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts addressed the recent mandatory evacuation order issued for the island.
In an email response to the Caymanian Compass from the Governor, answering questions about the meeting, he said, ‘On the basis that the shelter met Category 5 hurricane standards and that emergency services staff would remain, the Leader of Government Business and I said that we did not expect that compulsory evacuation should be necessary except in exceptional circumstances (eg. the shelter was out of operation).’
Others at the meeting were Minister for Communications, Works and Infrastructure Arden McLean, MLAs Rolston Anglin of West Bay and Alfonso Wright from George Town, the Chairman of the National Hurricane Committee Donovan Ebanks and other senior officials, along with about 40 residents of Little Cayman.
An estimated 40 people chose to stay on Little Cayman despite the evacuation order.
However, the shelter, the Public Works Department living quarters, could not open because essential staff left in compliance with the evacuation order.
Following Dean’s passage, the Governor did receive representations from residents of Little Cayman who questioned why the shelter had been closed and why the mandatory evacuation had been ordered. ‘The purpose of the meeting was to address these and to discuss with residents what course of action should be followed if a similar situation arose in the future,’ he said.
The meeting was organised by District Commissioner Ernie Scott at the Governor’s request and was held on Saturday, 22 September, at the shelter.
The Governor described the meeting as ‘a meeting of minds on the future handling of hurricanes.’
Mr. Scott said there had been general agreement at the meeting to continue to evacuate visitors of Little Cayman first, followed by overseas workers and those residents who wished to leave, with a final agreement that in future, evacuation would be more voluntary but more robust in terms of structured, timely warnings, good communication in general, and airlift.
There were some people in the meeting that said they had not heard about the mandatory evacuation order, given on Saturday, 18 August, before noon, until the Sunday morning at 8am.
Governor Jack explained to the Compass why the order had been made: ‘In order to evacuate everyone a decision had to be made by the Acting Governor early at a time when we were still expecting a direct hit by a Cat 4 hurricane. There was concern about the safety of people on Little Cayman.’
Mr. Scott stressed that the order had been put in place in, what was thought to have been at the time, the absolute best interests of the people.
Airlift from the island, put on by Cayman Airways, carried people out on Sunday morning, 19 August, between 6.30 and 9.30am.
Mr. Scott explained that there were six flights planned to get everyone on Little Cayman out, but after four flights there was no one else at the airport and so there was no need for any more flights.
Another message delivered at the meeting, said the Governor, was that he and the ministers took seriously the concerns and interests of the people of Little Cayman – as evidenced by the presence of such a delegation of officials from Grand Cayman.
When asked if he felt the meeting was worthwhile the Governor responded, ‘Very much so’ and he said he was grateful that so many people made the effort to attend, in particular ministers Tibbetts and McLean.
The Little Cayman shelter is deemed a Class A shelter suitable for shelter during a storm, and it is to be re-inspected by structural engineers from the Public Works department, Mr. Scott said.
The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the efforts under way to improve the waste dump on the island and to encourage recycling.