After Hurricane Irma devastated the British Virgin Islands less than two weeks ago, 16 Cayman Islands police officers deployed there were instrumental in helping restore law and order – efforts that included rounding up dozens of escaped prisoners.
As soon as Hurricane Maria passes in the coming days, those officers will continue their work in the BVI, Matthew Forbes, the head of the Cayman Islands Governor’s Office, who traveled to BVI with the RCIPS, said in a press release Tuesday.
“The RCIPS officers are continuing to do a fantastic job in BVI and are a credit to Cayman,” he added.
Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said the officers are in a secure location with U.K. officers and Marines. Freeman Rogers, the editor of the BVI Beacon, said the Marines are stationed at the territory’s main airport. Mr. Byrne commended the deployed officers for their dedication.
“We are proud of the sense of duty displayed by the officers, all of whom wanted to stay in the BVI throughout Hurricane Maria in order to be on hand when needed most, right after the storm,” he said, “and we also want to thank their families for their support of this mission, and assure them that the safety of the officers is always foremost in our minds.”
Meanwhile, residents in the BVI, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are bracing for Maria, which is forecast to hit the territories Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
While Maria was not on track to directly hit the BVI or USVI, it was expected to bring to the already devastated territories 6 to 12 inches of rain, with a possibility of 20 inches in some areas.
With most of the vegetation in those territories stripped away, the rain could cause life-threatening flash floods and massive mudslides, warned the BVI Department of Disaster Management.
On Tuesday morning, BVI residents were scrambling to repair the homes on the island that were not completely destroyed by Irma.
“A lot of houses lost their roofs,” Mr. Rogers told the Compass. “It’s worrying because people are putting up tarps, and now a lot of places are fitting five to 10 people to a room.”
Pictures were posted on BVI news sites and Facebook pages of soldiers from the U.K. helping to board buildings in the hours before the hurricane was due to arrive.
Some 90 miles west of the BVI, Puerto Rico is on track to be directly hit by Maria. Authorities there warned that people in wooden or flimsy homes should find safe shelter before the storm’s expected arrival there on Wednesday.
“You have to evacuate. Otherwise, you’re going to die,” said Hector Pesquera, the island’s public safety commissioner. “I don’t know how to make this any clearer.”
San Juan resident Rosiris Cuadrado spoke to the Compass Tuesday morning, describing a tense situation as the territory prepares for the worst.
Ms. Cuadrado said she spoke to her neighbor that morning who told her that he saw a man punch a woman at a nearby store in a tussle over the few remaining groceries.
As supplies dwindle, “things are getting feisty,” she said. Most residents in San Juan should be safe if they stay indoors, according to Ms. Cuadrado, since the tall buildings there should be able to shelter residents from the 160 mph winds.
Nevertheless, Maria is expected to cause an islandwide power outage that could last for weeks, if not months, she said. If that is the case, she said, she would have to move to the U.S. mainland.