Premier Alden McLaughlin paid a flying visit to the Bahamas Monday to offer Cayman’s solidarity and support to the hurricane-hit island chain.
McLaughlin met with Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and several of his ministers, as well as the captain leading the relief effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. The Category 5 storm devastated the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, leaving 51 people dead and around 70,000 homeless.
Having been through Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Paloma, McLaughlin said Caymanians understood better than most the trauma now facing their Caribbean neighbours. The premier, who arrived in Nassau on a Cayman Airways plane loaded with medical supplies for the relief effort, said he offered empathy and support to Minnis and his government.
He said, “The impact is so much greater than Ivan. Dorian is incomparable. I don’t know there is anything you can compare it to.”
“When you think [of] the number of people displaced, in terms of homeless, is a little more than the entire population of the Cayman Islands. That is the scale of what they are dealing with.”
McLaughlin, speaking to the Cayman Compass on his return Monday evening, acknowledged that the level of support Cayman, as a small
island territory, was able to offer was relatively small. But he said it was important that countries in the region offered whatever support they could.
“Last week it was them, next week it could be us. It has been us in the past,” he said.
Cayman loaned its police helicopter and crew to the relief effort last week, and delivered medical supplies on Monday.
McLaughlin added that he had shared some of Cayman’s experiences of coping with the traumatic aftermath of Ivan.
Following the 2004 storm, he said, Cayman did not get anywhere near the international assistance he would have liked. But he believes the climate has changed and both international agencies and regional neighbours are now more equipped to help each other out in times of crisis.
He said it had been important for Cayman to help in the Bahamas, as well as in the British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
“We understand how important these links are … knowing that you are able to have other jurisdictions come to your assistance,” he added.
After Irma, Cayman expedited immigration procedures to allow some company employees from the BVI to live and work in the Cayman Islands while the recovery effort took place.
Though the Bahamas does not have the same level of business links with Cayman, McLaughlin said he was willing to do the same this time.
“We had some preliminary inquiries from private sector entities and we are prepared to accommodate that by making the necessary adjustments to our immigration processes.”
He said there had been “nothing firm” as yet but added, “Whatever we can do to assist, we will”.