By James Dimond, email@example.com
Saturday 8th November, 2008 Posted: 20:50 CIT (01:50 +1 GMT)
Scores of Cayman Brackers have been left homeless and are facing lengthy stays in Government Hurricane Shelters after the extremely dangerous category–4 Hurricane Paloma smashed into the island early Saturday morning.
Hours after closing down the George Town shelter – Red Cross staff plan how to get supplies to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Photo: Shurna Robbins
Damage across the Brac has been described as “Ivan like”, with some houses completely obliterated. An estimated 90 per cent of properties have suffered mild to severe damage and many on both Sister Islands now face a long and painful rebuilding process.
Those that had spent the night at shelters or with friends and family were returning to their homes Saturday afternoon simply praying their home would be spared.
District Commissioner Ernie Scott was one of them. He was coming to grips with a collapsed roof and eight inches of water throughout his house when contacted by the Caymanian Compass Saturday evening.
“I am just trying to get through the water to find my bedroom,” he said. “Things don’t look very good here right now.”
Deputy District Commissioner Mark Tibbetts wasn’t faring much better at his house in West End. “I’ve got roof damage, everything inside is damaged. It’s total destruction,” he said.
“We’ve got catastrophic damage here in Cayman Brac,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “I would say 90 per cent of properties on the Brac are damaged and, if anything, that is probably being a bit conservative.
“You are talking about buildings that are totally demolished, roof damage from shingles blown off to rooves being completely ripped off, all along from one end of the island to the other.
“There will be lots of [people left homeless] for a long–term period,” he said.
Damaged roof to an old building in centreal George Town. Photo: Shurna Robbins
Schools have been damaged by the storm, two hurricane shelters were themselves breached and the Cayman Brac police station has lost its roof. All that is left of the warehouse at the Government dock is a frame, Mr. Tibbetts said.
The ’all clear’ was given for the Sister Islands at 7pm this evening, meaning that the hurricane watch that had been in effect had been discontinued, however residents were not allowed to go out.
Governor Stuart Jack enforced a curfew on both Sister Islands Saturday afternoon, which was to run from 6pm Saturday until 6am Sunday.
“The lack of power and street lighting, plus extensive property damage creates dangerous conditions. These pose major risks and post–event injuries can present a greater threat than the event itself,” a statement from Hazard Management Cayman Islands’ Joint Communications Service said.
Gerrard Smith Airport is expected to be able to accommodate jet aircraft traffic some time tomorrow. “This will be vital in moving supplies and people, including those who will temporarily wish to relocate,” the release said.
Critical supplies and personnel are to be moved to the Sister Islands tomorrow, including basic foods, water and tarpaulins.
CUC representatives were to fly to the island to assist Brac Power and Light in assessing requirements for power restoration.
At 2pm there had been no deaths reported on the Sister Islands, but there were some injuries, according to a government release.
Mr. Jack directed the Royal Navy Warship Waveruler to the Sister Islands where its crew will be providing disaster relief and providing humanitarian supplies.
On Little Cayman, extensive damage has also been reported and residents there could be without electricity for some time after the island’s power generator was damaged by Paloma, which maintained maximum sustained winds of between 130–140mph as it moved over the two islands early Saturday morning.
However David Walker, a property manager that rode out the storm with 32 others in Little Cayman’s Hurricane Shelter, said the damage to the island’s south side, which was closest to the storm’s eye, had not been as bad as many had feared.
“It looks like the south–side did not get that much damage. There was not much storm–surge; it was mainly wind damage.”
However, Mr. Walker said there was roof damage across the island. “In Blossom Village there are quite a number of houses that have had their roof peeled right off,” he said.
The Public Works department have been clearing rocks, tress and other debris off roads from 10am Saturday morning and most parts of the island are now accessible, Mr. Walker said.
“Initially it looked really bad but having spent the day here its not as bad as Ivan in Grand Cayman. Its nowhere close to that. I think the biggest thing was that there was no storm surge on the south–side of the island.
While there is a big clean up ahead of residents on the island, Mr. Walker said everyone seemed to be staying calm.
At 4pm Saturday, Paloma remained a category–4 hurricane as it crossed over eastern Cuba. It was located near 20.5 N and 78.5 W, or 100 miles east–northeast of Cayman Brac.
The storm continued to move east–northeast at 10mph, packing maximum sustained winds of 145mph.