Prince checks Brac damage

Prince Edward had a whistle-stop tour of Cayman Brac on Thursday to examine the damage wrought by November’s Hurricane Paloma.

The Earl of Wessex visited the badly damaged areas of Spot Bay and Creek.

Speaking after the two-hour tour, he said: ‘It is a great pleasure to be back in Cayman Brac; it’s unfortunate it is under these circumstances. It is fairly obvious that Hurricane Paloma did a considerable amount of damage to an awful lot of the island, both to a lot of people’s houses and also to the whole environment as well.

‘But, then again, it is good to see the way nature recovers and that the human spirit is alive and well. People seem to be picking up the pieces and getting on with trying to put back the damage done as quickly as possible.’

He had been met at the airport by the Acting Governor George McCarthy; Cayman Brac and Little Cayman MLAs Julianna O’Connor-Connolly and Moses Kirkconnell; police Chief Inspector Malcolm Kay; District Commissioner Ernie Scott; and Acting Head of the Governor’s Office Alan Drury.

Mr. Scott filled the prince in on the damage Paloma had done and the recovery works that had been carried out since then, before Prince Edward and his entourage headed for their first stop at Spot Bay.

The island suffered an estimated $50 million worth of damage, according to the Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing, and Hazard Management Cayman Islands.

At Spot Bay, Prince Edward spoke to residents whose homes had been badly damaged in the storm, asking them where they were when the hurricane was at its most powerful, where they had sought shelter and how they were coping.

He called into two homes in Spot Bay, including that of Starrie Scott.

He also met Ray Scott, 92, and other Brackers who had survived both Paloma and the devastating 1932 storm that wreaked havoc on the island almost 76 years to the day before Paloma hit.

He was introduced to Corinne Scott, mother of the late Estella Scott-Roberts, and had a few quiet words with her.

The prince visited the badly damaged police station and was given a tour by Chief Inspector Malcolm Kay. Police are now housed temporarily in the UCCI Cayman Brac campus.

Afterwards, he stopped briefly at the trailers housing people whose homes were lost in the storm, but it appeared no one was home, so the convoy left again without the prince disembarking.

Eldenido Scott, who lives in one of the caravans with her husband Charles Owen Scott and young son Patrick, said she had seen the prince pull up, but had decided not to come out because she was looking after the baby at the time.

Neighbour Wilson Weldon Anderson was at work when the prince visited. He has been living in a trailer since shortly after his house’s ceiling and roof were badly damaged in Paloma.

‘We’re working on the house now. I would say I’ll be here another two months or so, I guess,’ he said.

The prince also made a brief stop at the Veterans and Seaman’s Society Building, where people sought shelter during the storm.

Then it was onto the Cayman Brac Reef Resort where he surveyed the damage. He met foreman Kyle Hooker, grandson of the hotel’s founder Linton Tibbetts, who updated him on the recovery and renovation work being undertaken.

The hotel is slated to reopen in May. The exterior walls are still missing from much of the building, but the bar and restaurant of the hotel are open, and karaoke is held weekly for local residents. With no accommodation available on the island, no tourists are making overnight stays there.

MLA Moses Kirkconnell said any royal visit to the Brac was a boon, as it helped to raise the island’s profile. ‘It’s always good to have a visit from the royal family. It was unfortunate he came to look at Paloma damage, but it’s important that this has been acknowledged by the highest family in the British Empire, from the community’s standpoint.’

He added: ‘It was extremely important that he saw the eastern district where most of the damage was done.’

After the tour, District Commissioner Ernie Scott said: ‘He is quite pleased by our efforts here, and I am quite confident that he will be an advocate for us.’

Three months after Paloma, many homes and businesses on the island remain wrecked. New roofs are evident on some, while others appear abandoned because the damage was so severe.

Power has been returned to most of the island, and electricity crews are still working on restoring power lines along roads. Mr. Kirkconnell said that about 80 per cent of homes now had power, but some are in such bad condition that even if power has been restored to the area, lines cannot be hooked up to individual houses because they do not have roofs or are still badly affected by damp.

Phone lines are still strewn across several stretches of road on the island and telephone connections in some parts are intermittent.

Of the 1,207 buildings in Cayman Brac, only 195 escaped unscathed, while 56 were destroyed; 182 sustained major damage; 231 had medium damage; and 543 had minor damage.

West End and Creek were the two neighbourhoods with the most major damage to buildings, with 42 per cent of all the buildings there receiving major damage, according to government information.

Spot Bay lost 11 buildings; Watering Place and Creek lost nine each, and seven were destroyed in West End.

Some 85 per cent of all Cayman Brac buildings experienced damage, while 42 per cent of businesses; all hotels; and 32 per cent of government buildings were damaged.

The prince, having completed his quick visit to Cayman Brac, flew to Grand Cayman where he was met by the Acting Leader of Government Business Anthony Eden; West Bay MLA Captain Eugene Ebanks; and Acting Police Commissioner James Smith.

He presented Duke of Edinburgh awards to recipients at Government House, before leaving Cayman for Barbados in the afternoon.