When Premier Alden McLaughlin first stepped on the ground of hurricane-ravaged Anguilla on Tuesday afternoon, he said he had a flashback to September 2004.
“It brought back in a rush the images, smells and feelings of the aftermath of Ivan,” he said. “It almost made me tear up.”
Mr. McLaughlin said many people in Cayman felt “isolated” after Hurricane Ivan devastated the territory. He said he’s determined to make sure people in the other British Overseas Territories do not have those same feelings in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
To that end, Cayman’s humanitarian mission on Tuesday involved a Cayman Airways 737-300 shipping medical and disaster relief workers, food, medicine and other supplies to Anguilla.
Most of the resources are meant to bolster Anguilla’s healthcare system, as the island’s hospital was severely damaged by Irma.
The Health Services Authority stated that it sent a general practice physician, an emergency room physician, two emergency room nurses, two operating room nurses, a critical care unit nurse, a chemotherapy nurse and a paramedic.
Health City Cayman Islands said it contributed three of its staff members and more than US$30,000 of medicine.
“We want to send our support to our Caribbean family who have been impacted by Hurricane Irma,” Health City CEO Dr. Chandy Abraham said.
McCleary Frederick, director of Hazard Management Cayman Islands, will also help Anguilla’s National Emergency Operations Centre with initial damage assessments, communications plans and coordinating relief supplies, according to government.
Premier McLaughlin said those workers will stay in Anguilla for about two weeks, and when a Cayman Airways jet comes to pick them up, another cohort of workers and supplies will be dropped off.
The Cayman jet also returned with one 67-year-old female cardiac patient who is in critical condition. Mr. McLaughlin said his team had planned to bring back three patients, but one declined and another was able to be treated by the Health Services Authority staff that government dispatched there.
Officials said they could not provide any further details on the person who came back because of patient confidentiality rules. Along with the patient, an Anguilla national residing in Cayman went on the trip to go retreive his daughter, according to the premier’s senior political advisor, Roy Tatum. Another Anguilla national went on the trip and stayed there, Mr. Tatum added.
Mr. McLaughlin said his administration will continue to assist British Overseas Territories that have been impacted by Irma.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has already dispatched 16 officers to the BVI to help with reported widespread looting and other security issues, and has sent its helicopter and crew to the Turks and Caicos Islands to help transport people between the territory’s roughly 40 inhabited islands.
Mr. McLaughlin also said government is in discussions with those territories about helping them transport their prisoners to other jurisdictions. He said Cayman was asked to take on some of those prisoners, but “we had to say no to that because we don’t have the capacity.”
The premier added that the BVI is likely the most heavily affected of the three overseas territories that were hit by Irma, but unfortunately Cayman Airways will not be able to make a similar humanitarian trip because the territory’s runway is too short for its jets.
Nevertheless, “I expect we’ll find whatever means we can to assist the BVI,” he said.