A Cayman police air crew is helping evacuate victims and deliver supplies to some of the worst-hit areas of the Bahamas in the aftermath of deadly Hurricane Dorian.
The H145 Airbus helicopter has also been shooting surveillance photographs during its missions on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, which were devastated by the storm.
One image forwarded by the crew showed a causeway linking the main island of Abaco to Little Abaco that had been shattered by the storm.
The death toll from the category five storm has now risen to 50, with tens of thousands left homeless, according to the United Nations. Dorian was the strongest recorded Atlantic hurricane ever to make landfall, with winds that reached 300kph, and caused damage that is expected to run to $3 billion according to a report in the Financial Times.
Cayman’s flight crew, which involves two pilots and four tactical flight officers, is part of a massive multinational aid effort.
On Monday, Premier Alden McLaughlin and Governor Martyn Roper approved a request from the Bahamian government for the helicopter and crew to extend its deployment on the islands, which began last week.
A new pilot, Elaine Hunter, in her first week on the job as a Royal Cayman Islands Police Service pilot, has been set to join the team.
The helicopter, which is based in Nassau, is supporting humanitarian efforts by taking multiple daily flights to the effected islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
The two crews are working around the clock going back and forth to the islands in support of the relief effort. The crew have been tasked with various medevacs of injured people, transporting essential specialists and carrying vital equipment.
As of Sunday, the H145 helicopter had flown 21 flights in three days.
The RCIPS Air Operations Team have been working alongside the UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s RFA Mounts Bay support ship in their relief efforts.
Neil Mohammed, tactical flight officer, said the crew had been pitched straight into action.
“We deployed very quickly into the field delivering supplies and specialists. On Sunday we took six flights to Abaco, extending from Marsh Harbour to Coopers Town. The Air Ops crew transported United Nations specialists to assess humanitarian aid requirements. We delivered specialist technicians to start recovering the hospital on Abaco.
And we have been evacuating displaced people, including on one flight, two babies who were evacuated to Nassau. There’s still so much more we can do,” he said in a statement released through Government Information Services.
Governor Roper said he was happy an extension to the deployment had been agreed.
“The RCIPS helicopter crew are working tirelessly in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. By extending the deployment Cayman will be able to support the relief effort in the Bahamas further. The Air Operations Unit and RFA Mounts Bay trained together this year and we can now see how vital such exercises are. I’d like to thank all the crew for their efforts in what must be an extremely difficult environment.”
Premier McLaughlin added, “As we approach the 15th anniversary of [Hurricane] Ivan this Wednesday, many of us will remember the support we were offered by our Caribbean brothers and sisters during our time of need. The images we are seeing following Dorian will bring back many memories of not just Ivan, but also Hurricane Paloma that impacted Cayman Brac in November 2008. We stand ready to offer the Bahamians further support if required.”