Cayman readies relief effort in wake of Hurricane Dorian

Even as Hurricane Dorian continued to wreak havoc in the Bahamas Monday, relief efforts were already getting under way.

Cayman officials began discussing providing aid to the Bahamas on Monday as part of a response to the damage and destruction caused by the storm. Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas Sunday as a Category 5 hurricane, and the Associated Press reported that its maximum sustained winds of 185 mph tied the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane to ever make landfall.

The AP reported that the only more powerful storm recorded was Hurricane Allen in 1980, which reached maximum sustained winds of 190 mph but did not make landfall at that intensity.

Cayman’s relief and disaster preparedness agencies are preparing to make the same kind of effort in the Bahamas that they made in Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma in 2017.

“I would like to express my sympathy to the Government and people of the Bahamas at this very difficult and challenging time,” said Premier Alden McLaughlin as part of an official press release Monday. “It is important that the countries in the region support each other fully when devastating storms like this threaten the lives, property and livelihoods of our people. Cayman remembers the effects of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and we will do all we can to provide appropriate assistance to the Bahamas.”

Cayman will coordinate its relief efforts with the government of the Bahamas, regional partners and the United Kingdom under the umbrella of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

The new Royal Cayman Islands Police Service helicopter will be deployed to the Bahamas to assist in search-and-rescue and medivac operations, officials said. The helicopter can also carry out aerial reconnaissance missions in addition to the delivery of equipment and personnel to affected areas.

Winds from Hurricane Dorian whip through a neighbourhood in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Monday.

“The reports coming from Abaco and Grand Bahama are very concerning and Cayman stands ready to help our friends in the Bahamas in the best way that we can,” said Governor Martyn Roper in a statement. “We have made an initial offer to deploy our new helicopter to assist should this be required. Being able to access remote communities after an event like this is crucial and storms like Dorian highlight the importance of the investments that the Government is making in air operations and disaster management. It is important that any assistance to the Bahamas is properly coordinated with our partners in the region and we are in contact with CDEMA and the UK to ensure this is the case.”

The Cayman Islands Red Cross and Hazard Management Cayman Islands both sent representatives to help aid in the effort of restoring basic services to the British Virgin Islands in 2017, and the RCIPS sent a team of personnel and its helicopter to help with storm relief in the BVI and Turks and Caicos.

Red Cross appeal

The Cayman Islands Red Cross announced Monday evening that it was launching a monetary donation appeal to support those affected by the storm. The organisation urged people not to send unsolicited items to the Bahamas, stating: “Most items people want to send in the immediate aftermath of a disaster – clothing, shoes, toys – are not priority. Unsolicited items create havoc on the ground as organisations do not know they are coming and then have to divert manpower and equipment to collect them and most don’t have [some]where to store them.”

Read the Red Cross appeal for assistance here. 

The International Federation of the Red Cross has agreements in place to purchase items in bulk which translates a $1 donation into $7 on the ground, the CIRC pointed out.

Donations can be made to a Butterfield Bank account number: 1360350540060. For more information, email [email protected]

Bahamas battered by storm

A family waits out Hurricane Dorian in a shelter in Freeport, Grand Bahama, on Sunday. – Photos: AP

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said Monday afternoon that at least five people have died in the Abaco islands.

By late afternoon Monday. Hurricane Dorian’s ferocious winds had weakened a little as the storm hovered over the Bahamas, giving the islands a merciless pounding. The storm was downgraded to a Category 4 by 11am.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said at 4pm EDT Monday that the storm’s maximum sustained winds had fallen to 145 mph – down from 155 mph earlier in the day.

On Sunday, Dorian blasted the Bahamas with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts of up to 220 mph.

The storm was expected to slowly move northeast, but on Monday afternoon it remained about 25 miles northeast of Freeport, Grand Bahama island. It was about 105 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida.

A view of Category 5 Hurricane Dorian bearing down on the Bahamas, as seen from the International Space Station on Sunday. – Image: Screengrab from NASA video

Forecasters said Dorian was expected to move “dangerously close” to the Florida east coast late Monday through Wednesday evening and then move north to coastal Georgia and South Carolina on Wednesday night and Thursday.

Earlier on Monday, Delta Air Lines reported that a flight from Atlanta to Nassau, Bahamas, was forced to turn back because of high crosswind speeds. Flight 337, which had 42 customers on board, took off just before 10am Monday because forecasts showed crosswinds within limits and Nassau’s airport was open. But wind speeds increased while the flight was en route, so it returned to Atlanta.

Hurricane Dorian unleashed massive flooding across Grand Bahama island. Minister of State Kwasi Thompson told ZNS Bahamas radio station Monday that officials were getting a tremendous number of calls from people in distress as the powerful storm slowed to almost a standstill.

Police Chief Samuel Butler urged people to remain calm and said rescue crews could not help anyone until the winds dropped. “We simply cannot get to you,” he said.

Dorian brought storm surge of up to 23 feet, and the ZNS radio station shared reports from callers saying some people were stuck on roofs.

The AP contributed to this report.