Cayman rallies with relief

The Cayman Islands will ship trailer homes to the Isle of Pines to aid residents made homeless by the near passings of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Hurricane relief materials will also be sent to the Turks and Caicos Islands, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said in the Legislative Assembly Wednesday.

The shipment of trailers to the Isle of Pines is subject to acceptance by the Cuban government.

‘If it is acceptable, we’ll be sending as many of the trailer homes we have that aren’t in use,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

Earlier this summer, there were about 47 trailers unoccupied of the original 84 shipped to Grand Cayman in early 2005 to provide housing for those made homeless by Hurricane Ivan.

The trailers will be shipped to the Isle of Pines by barge, along with the other relief materials, next week.

In addition to the relief to Isle of Pines, Mr. Tibbetts said Cabinet approved aid for the Turks and Caicos Islands. Grand Turk took almost a direct hit from major Hurricane Ike earlier this week. The relief materials will include food supplies, water, tarps and generators.

‘Cayman Airways is organising a cargo flight to go directly to Grand Turk with that aid.’

Mr. Tibbetts said he has been and continues to be in contact with Premier Michael Misick and other members of the Turks and Caicos Islands Government.

‘At one point, they were asking what Hurricane Ivan looked like because they feel they’re under similar circumstances,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘And I feel they are under similar circumstances. We will continue to pray for them.’

Meanwhile, efforts to collect other donations of food, clothing, bedding, and other relief supplies continue.

The Isle of Pines suffered major damage in Hurricane Gustav earlier this month and was battered again when Hurricane Ike passed through this week.

Two collection points have been established, one in George Town opposite the Red Cross and one in West Bay near the police station.

A steering committee was set up following a meeting in West Bay last week to coordinate relief efforts.

West Bay MLA Cline Glidden said: ‘We recognise the large amount of families and Cuban-Caymanians with connections with the Isle of Pines and after the initial disaster with Gustav, we decided to call a meeting to decide how best to coordinate some relief to those people and offer assistance.’

He said about 80 people attended the meeting, wanting to find out what they could do to help.

‘One of the big concerns the group had was to ensure that whatever contributions were made would not be going to the central government in Havana and that we could get permission to carry relief into the Isle of Pines where it was most needed,’ Mr. Glidden said.

The group received permission from the Cuban government to deliver the donated items directly to the Isle of Pines.

After examining the possibilities of hiring charter flights to take the cargo to the stricken island, the group decided to opt for sending a barge of containers there instead because it could carry many more containers. The shipment is expected to arrive in the Isle of Pines 24 to 36 hours after leaving Cayman.

Thompson Shipping plans to send a cargo ship to the island next week. Originally the plan had been for the ship to depart late this week, but due to inclement weather from Ike, as well as the expected arrival on Monday of additional donations to add to the shipment from Cuban-Americans in South Florida, the ship is now expected to depart next week.

The Red Cross had agreed to arrange for the distribution of the items among the 90,000-plus population of the Isle of Pines when the ship arrives.

Elsie Ebanks, who is heading the coordination of the shipment, said the latest indications from the Isle of Pines was that its residents badly needed food, bedding, building materials, clothing and shoes.

Among the items already donated in Cayman includes a mobile trailer home which one local resident bought at auction.

‘We’ve already received lots and lots of clothing. We are focussing more now on food. We need baby food, formula, also disposal diapers. We need other foods too, like rice, sugar, coffee, and non-perishable canned goods.

‘We also need bedding, batteries, flashlights, candles, disinfectant and toiletries,’ Ms Ebanks said.

She added: ‘All these things were needed prior to the storm, life is very hard for the people over there.’

‘They’re also going to need medicines for stomach bugs, for example, as water is often contaminated after storms like these,’ she said.

Two of the containers of donated goods, mostly clothing and bedding, are likely to remain in the Isle of Pines when the ship returns to Cayman, to be used if the need arises in the future.

The Isle of Pines, also known as La Isla De La Juventud, or the Island of Youth, has a long established connection with the Cayman Islands – many Caymanians settled in the Isle of Pines between the 1920s and 1950s to work in the citrus farming and factories. When Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, these Cuban-Caymanians were repatriated to Cayman.

As well as seeking donated items, the group is also looking for more volunteers to help with sorting through and packing the donations. Anyone who wants more information can call 916-2969 or 517-7236.