Prison building ‘beyond repair’ after lightning strike

A Sept. 27 lightning strike at Northward Prison has left the facility’s main supply storage building “beyond repair,” officials confirmed Tuesday.

The prison service is using what alternative storage space it can to keep items “critical to daily operations,” according to prisons human resources manager Raquel Solomon.

The bolt struck the roof of the prison storage building in the predawn hours, destroying much of the supplies and equipment kept there, including telecom servers and central phone lines.

Cayman Islands Fire Service crews spent two-and-a-half-hours between 1:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. Sept. 27 getting the flames under control.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 17, full telecommunications services at Northward had not been restored, Ms. Solomon said.

“We are about 80 percent back online, computers were first back up and then phones,” she said. “Unfortunately, there was some permanent damage done to some connections and those are still being resolved.”

While the phone lines were down, prison officials provided inmates with temporary cellphones to make calls to family members. The prison phone system is now mostly restored but “some kinks’ were still being worked out, Ms. Solomon said.

All computer cables and telecommunications circuits were located inside the burned out storage building, fire officials said.

No one was hurt in the Sept. 27 blaze, as both staff and prisoners would not have been anywhere near the storage building at that time of the morning, Prisons Director Neil Lavis said. The storage building is outside the main security fence of the prison compound.

Radio station down

Northward Prison was not the only public facility damaged in the lightning strike.

The government’s National Weather Service reported Tuesday that its public radio programming on FM 107.9 has been off air for the past three weeks while repairs are carried out. Those repairs are expected to take at least a month.

The FM station broadcasts weather updates to the listening audience. The weather service said it would still make forecasts available online, via its Facebook page and in the local news media.

“The National Weather Service sincerely apologizes to listeners for the inconvenience,” a statement issued Tuesday noted.

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