Although they escaped Irma’s devastation unscathed, long-time residents of the Cayman Islands well recall the aftermath of a catastrophic hurricane. “Many of us remember Hurricane Ivan [in 2004] and the help our sister territories provided to us during that difficult time,” Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis said Saturday. “It is our duty to honor and reciprocate and do whatever we can to improve the situation.”
Aid in the form of law enforcement support, rebuilding assistance, insurance payouts and other monetary support was already on the way or being organized in Cayman over the weekend, as the western Caribbean territory looked to provide what help it could to its devastated northeastern neighbors.
A team of 16 Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers left Grand Cayman Saturday afternoon, headed for the devastated British Virgin Islands to bolster a bare bones police force in the storm ravaged British territory. Head of the Cayman Islands Governor’s Office Matthew Forbes is joining the RCIPS on its BVI mission.
According to reports on the ground from BVI, law enforcement presence is thin and the situation is unstable at the moment with looting, and some incarcerated prisoners going free. RCIPS officers will fly on a Cayman Airways jet to Barbados, where they will meet up with U.K. defense forces, including the amphibious lander RFA Mounts Bay, which is providing supplies and repair vehicles to BVI.
Meanwhile, the RCIPS police helicopter arrived in The Turks and Caicos Islands Saturday morning to assist with storm recovery efforts there.
The RCIPS helicopter, which was in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba during Friday’s storms, landed in the storm-stricken Turks and Caicos Islands Saturday. Turks and Caicos was hit by Irma’s full force early Friday.
Local newspaper editor Hayden Boyce said the RCIPS chopper was used to transport Turks and Caicos Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson to Grand Turk, which was more badly damaged than the other islands.
“Clearly the BVI and TCI require significant assistance following the passage of such a devastating hurricane,” Mr. Forbes said. “The Cayman Islands has responded swiftly in coordination with the U.K. to provide essential and practical support.”
Caribbean Utilities Company was also organizing a team of about 10 linesmen to help with the electricity restoration effort in the eastern Caribbean as well. Plans to get those teams out to the disaster areas were being made Sunday.
Insurance payouts to some eastern Caribbean islands hit early last week by Irma were being made by the Cayman-based the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF SPC). Those payments, totaling US$15.6 million, will go to the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, and St. Kitts and Nevis, according to a press release from the fund.
The insurance fund was set up in Cayman during 2007 to assist smaller Caribbean islands recover quickly in the event of a significant natural disaster.
Even well to the south of Cuba, there were still some effects seen in Cayman from the monster storm, particularly on Saturday.
Huge waves lapped over the George Town seawall along North Church Street Saturday, forcing the RCIPS to close a section of the road between Bodden Road and Mary Street.
The same occurred in Cayman Brac, where seawater spilled onto a section of road near the police station and debris had to be cleaned from the road on Saturday.
Brac District Commissioner Ernie Scott said the Sister Islands got quite a bit more rain from Irma’s outer bands than Grand Cayman did, but it was nothing they could not handle.
“It wasn’t extremely heavy, but it was steady,” Mr. Scott said. “From 9 p.m. [Friday] right through to [Saturday] morning. We’ve still got some heavy winds, six to eight foot waves rolling in on the north coast.”
Those heavy waves brought some unexpected visitors to Grand Cayman shores, including a dead beaked whale that washed up in North Side, and four live juvenile turtles who were tossed onto some local beaches and received assistance from the Department of Environment in making their way back to the ocean.
The whale was identified as Ziphius cavieostris, Cuvier’s beaked whale, and it appears it had been attacked by sharks before washing up at the bottom of the beach stairs at Dr. Iain MacKellar’s North Side property. “It was more than a little surprising, it must be said.” Dr. MacKellar said of the 15-foot-long find. The species is rarely seen, preferring the deep waters of the open sea, often plunging to depths of more than 3,000 ft. in the Atlantic.
Irma caused far more disruption, from Cayman’s perspective, in the skies than it did on the seas or on the ground.
The national air carrier canceled flights to Miami and Tampa due to Irma’s projected path. Also, a lightning strike on the Kingston airport Friday put it out of commission Saturday, canceling more flights.
It was not known if the lightning strike, which knocked out radar equipment at the Norman Manley International Airport, was directly related to the hurricane.
CAL flights to Kingston were canceled on Saturday. The airline added recovery flights on Sunday for Jamaica.
Meanwhile, cancellations to Tampa airport affected CAL travelers Monday, including: Cayman Airways’ Tampa flights KX200 and KX201 on Sept. 11. The airline added recovery flights for Tuesday Sept. 12. Those included: Flight KX3200 departing Grand Cayman at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, arriving in Tampa at 2:30 p.m. On the return, flight KX3201 will depart Tampa at 3:25 p.m. and arrive on Grand Cayman at 4:10 p.m.
According to Cayman Airways, Kingston flight KX600, which was scheduled to depart Grand Cayman at 7 a.m. Saturday, and KX601, which was scheduled to depart Kingston at 8:55 a.m., were delayed while awaiting an update from Norman Manley Airport. The Kingston airport later reported that it would remain closed until at least 7 p.m. Saturday, which led CAL to officially cancel flights KX600 and KX601.