Two British warships arrived on Cayman Brac Saturday to help the Sister Islands rebuild after Hurricane Gustav brought widespread damage to the islands Friday night.
Power lines were down, roads were strewn with debris, boats were beached and roofs were torn from houses after the centre of the Category 1 hurricane passed just west of the islands Friday evening.
Little Cayman was the worst affected after the eye of the storm came within 25 miles of the island.
“Its very, very clear that the damage over here on Little Cayman is much more significant than on Cayman Brac,” said District Commissioner Ernie Scott shortly after doing an aerial survey of the island aboard a helicopter from the HMS Iron Duke.
“It’s pretty clear from our aerial assessment of the island that there is roof damage to many properties.”
Mr. Scott said every dock on Little Cayman was either severely damaged or destroyed and four or five dive boats were washed ashore in the storm.
“The south road along Little Cayman has been breached by sand and rock in six to seven areas and there is also a fair amount of flooding on the road,” he noted.
Most of Little Cayman is expected to remain without power for the next few days, but by Saturday evening, power had been restored to about 85 per cent of customers on the Brac.
There were no reports of significant injuries on either island although one couple required medical attention after being swept off a dock while taking pictures on Little Cayman Saturday evening.
On Cayman Brac, 432 residents waited the storm out in three government hurricane shelters, while only 14 people went to the Little Cayman shelter. It was not clear how many had sheltered in caves on the Brac but officials said they could do little to dissuade people out of the centuries old tradition.
HMS Iron Duke is expected to stay on Cayman Brac but the second ship, HMS Wave Ruler, was expected to depart Sunday morning.
While no curfew was imposed in the Cayman Islands, authorities were urging residents on the Sister Islands to stay off the roads while workmen cleared debris Saturday.
Cayman Airways resumed flights to the Sister Islands Saturday evening after closing operations and moving its fleet of aircraft to secure locations in Florida.
Governor Stuart Jack, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and Cabinet ministers Arden McLean and Charles Clifford all caught the first flight to the Brac when services resumed to inspect damage.
Mr. Jack told the Caymanian Compass: ‘Quite a lot of clearing up has already happened but there are still some electricity poles down … there are telephone wires down; quite a number of telephone poles have either tipped over or are leaning over and in some places there is still water on the road and debris from the trees.’
The Governor said he is confident the islands will bounce back quickly from Gustav.
‘They have done a lot to get back to normal already. I’m pretty confident that, given a few days, they will be there.’
While there were reports of damage to the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman and to the Brac Reef Resort’s pier dock, Mr. Scott said damage to hotels across the islands seemed limited and he expects tourism to return to normal by mid-week.
Mr. Scott and Mr. Jack both paid tribute to emergency crews working to help the islands get back on their feet.
‘The guys are out there doing a terrific job,’ the Governor said.
‘We suffered some damage, particularly on the Sister Islands, but we were well prepared. With the usual determination that you find among people in the Cayman Islands to get back to normal quickly, I’m confident that it won’t take us too long to deal with those problems.’