Cayman at centre of Caribbean disaster relief

The Cayman Islands Red Cross is
handing over 2,000 disaster shelter kits to the UK’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s
Wave Ruler ship as part of a new arrangement that sees Cayman becoming a
holding and distribution centre for relief supplies in the Caribbean.

Cayman signed a memorandum of understanding
with the United Kingdom three months ago, the Red Cross’ Disaster Manager
Hemant Balgobin said, and the first 6,000 emergency relief kits – a third of
which will be transferred to the visiting Royal Navy ship Monday – for the
region arrived on Island in late July.

“The 2,000 kits contain tarps with
rope and knives so people can cover their roof if the roof lifts. We also have
water purification tablets, funnels for water bottles and tents. That’s what is
going on the ship,” Mr. Balgobin said.

The 6,000 kits were purchased and
provided by the UK’s Department for International Development, shipped to
Cayman about three weeks ago on container ships and stored at the Red Cross’
warehouse. The remaining 4,000 kits will stay at the warehouse until they are
needed at another island in the region or locally.

The Red Cross was scheduled to move
the 2,000 kits to the port in George Town on Sunday night, ready to be loaded
onto the RFA Wave Ruler first thing on Monday morning, shortly after the
arrival of the ship in Cayman. Those supplies will be kept on board the ship,
ready to be shipped immediately to any area in the region that requires assistance.

According to the memorandum of
understanding, the Cayman Islands Red Cross will manage and store the emergency
supplies on behalf of the UK government.

“They stay here on the Cayman
Islands until they are needed in any of the British Overseas Territories or
other islands in the region that the British government might decide to
supply,” Mr. Balgobin said.

In the event of a local disaster,
Cayman has immediate access to the emergency supplies provided by the UK, as
well as the Red Cross’ own disaster relief stock already on Island.

“We’re at an advantage by being
able to have it here. In case something happens here, we have additional stock
we can count on,” Mr. Balgobin said.

The Red Cross already has several
40-foot containers placed throughout the Cayman Islands that include emergency
supplies for use in a local disaster, and other stocks of equipment that
include generators, tarps, water purification tablets, and water cans. These
can be used in the event of an island-wide emergency or could be used for
individual situations such as assisting a family that has lost its home in a
fire, Mr. Balgobin explained.

He said the Red Cross and the UK
had been in discussions for about two years to finalise the arrangement.

“The initial agreement is for one
year. Hopefully, everything will go smoothly and they will be satisfied with
the services we provide,” he said.

The Wave Ruler is scheduled to
remain in Cayman until Wednesday, 18 August.

“The stores being on board will add
to the equipment already carried and maximise the ability to respond quickly
and when most needed, should any overseas territory be struck by a hurricane,”
a press release from the Governor’s Office announcing the visit of the Wave
Ruler to Cayman stated on Friday.

The ship is currently on duty as
part of the Royal Navy’s Atlantic Patrol Task (North) to support the UK
Overseas Territories and provide help in the event of a natural disaster. 

The Wave Ruler was deployed to aid
Cayman Brac in the aftermath of Hurricane Paloma in November 2008.

While in Grand Cayman, Commanding
Officer, Captain Nigel Budd will host a VIP luncheon on board the ship for
Governor Duncan Taylor and members of Cabinet.

In the press release, Captain Budd
was quoted as saying: “Our visit will reinforce our excellent long-standing
relations with the people of Grand Cayman and will serve to further enhance our
disaster relief capability. Wave Ruler is in the Caribbean specifically to
support UK Overseas Territories.

“We are well placed to provide
first aid humanitarian and technical assistance, with an extensive range of
disaster relief stores and on-board logistics capable of providing food, water
and shelter, utilising well trained personnel, should this be required,”

When it is at sea, the ship
conducts maritime patrols, working with various agencies and nations,
particularly aimed at countering drug trafficking in the Caribbean region.

In recent years, the RFA Wave Ruler
has seized approximately 11 tonnes of drugs during counter narcotic boarding
operations in the Caribbean area and has conducted a number of high-profile
disaster relief operations. 

The 645-foot-long ship carries a
crew of 80 British Royal Fleet Auxiliary seafarers, with accommodation for
additional 22 Royal Navy personnel when carrying a helicopter.

TOPCaymanCaribbeanSTORY

RFA Wave Ruler docked off Seven Mile Beach on a previous visit to Cayman.
Photo: CORNELIA OLIVIER
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