Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Letter from the Cayman Islands Government Office in the United Kingdom, 8 October 2004

  I am writing to update you, as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, on the impact of Hurricane Ivan on the Cayman Islands, and particularly Grand Cayman, last month. I also wanted to keep you informed about the recovery operation which has just begun.

  Hurricane Ivan reached Category Five over Cayman. It was one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit land. The eye of the storm passed within eight to 15 miles of Grand Cayman. It struck on Sunday 12 September, bringing with it sustained winds of 160 miles per hour, gusts of up to 217 mph, and a storm surge of sea water of eight to 10 feet, which covered most of the Island. A quarter of Grand Cayman remained submerged by flood waters two days later. Both Cayman Brac and Little Cayman suffered damage, although not to the same extent as Grand Cayman.

  Damage on Grand Cayman has been extensive. I include with this letter, for your reference, a detailed briefing about the damage and the recovery effort, and some photographs[5]of the devastation. 95% of our housing stock has sustained damage, with around 25% destroyed or damaged beyond repair. We currently have 6,000 homes that are uninhabitable-these are homes that house teachers, nurses, manual and other workers. Thankfully, loss of life in Cayman has been limited, relative to the impact of the storm. We have one reported fatality and one person missing, presumed dead. Our prayers go out to their families and friends.

  I recognise that the Cayman Islands, relative to our neighbours in the Caribbean, has a good standard of living. Our financial services industry made a rapid recovery and is now operating as normal, but we have a very long and hard task ahead of us to rebuild our homes and public infrastructure. Some of those who have been most badly affected by the devastation are among the most vulnerable in our society.

  I have had discussions with the FCO and DfID this week, and have requested supplies, logistical support and expertise. I hope that as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee you will not object if I and my colleagues in London continue to keep you informed of what we are doing to tackle the very serious situation we face in Cayman.

  I have been heartened by the spirit of the Caymanian people, which remains strong. We are all pulling together to recover, but we need the assistance of our friends around the world. I hope you will be able to support our efforts.

Honourable McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP

Leader of Government Business and

Minister of Tourism, Environment, Development and Commerce

8 October 2004

Annex 1



  By Hon McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP

  Leader of Government Business, Cayman Islands


  The situation in the Cayman Islands is steadily improving and the spirit of the Cayman Islands people is shining through. The community is pulling together and working as one to rebuild. We are recovering but the scale of the damage to public infrastructures as well as the impact on our housing stock has been tremendous. Six thousand homes have been damaged beyond repair or destroyed.

  The Cayman Islands Government is functioning again, but because of the scale of the devastation that has occurred it is clear that it will need continued outside assistance with the recovery and reconstruction process. Many of our people are homeless, and many who could not afford insurance will need our help. The Government is, consequently, asking for assistance from our friends around the world in any form they feel appropriate.


  The Cayman Islands Tourism Association has carried out an audit of the damage to tourist accommodation and attractions on Grand Cayman. Initial assessments indicate that considerable damage has been sustained and the capacity of the tourist industry on Grand Cayman will depend to a great degree on the progress of the recovery effort.

  It is hoped that some tourists will be welcomed to Grand Cayman by mid-November. It is important to remember and inform people that tourist facilities are open for business on both Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.


  Despite rumours of widespread looting, incidents during and immediately after the hurricane were sporadic and limited. There was a minor disturbance at Northward Prison during the storm but the prison was quickly secured.

  The Cayman Islands Government is especially grateful for the support they have received from neighbouring Caribbean Overseas Territories and Bermuda; 25 police officers from Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks & Caicos Islands were sent to Grand Cayman to relieve and assist the Royal Cayman Islands Police (RCIP) officers.

Financial services

  The financial industry offered continuity of service throughout the hurricane. In most cases, well prepared business continuity plans were implemented and, as a consequence of the multi-jurisdictional nature of many Cayman Islands firms, financial service provision continued at a high level. The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority resumed operations on Monday 20 September. CIMA and the clearing banks have confirmed publicly that their records and data were unaffected and that the banking system has remained sound.

The relief effort

  In the aftermath of the hurricane, the Governor assumed responsibility for all affairs in the recovery process under the Emergency Powers Order. The Cayman Islands Government, Members of the Legislative Assembly, the private sector, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development (DfID) and international aid agencies worked together to repair key services and facilitate the Cayman Islands' recovery. The immediate relief effort was coordinated through the National Hurricane Committee (NHC) which was composed of senior Cayman Island Government figures and representatives of the private sector. The Emergency Powers were lifted on 27 September, the NHC stood down and powers were transferred back to the relevant Cayman Island Government agencies.

  Support has been received from a number of sources. A DfID Humanitarian Assessment Team was sent to Grand Cayman. Relief was also provided by the Red Cross. DfID is also undertaking a meteorological study of Hurricane Ivan and its impact, and a DfID scientist has visited Grand Cayman to undertake a provisional study. In the first week after the hurricane struck, the crews of HMS Richmond and RFA Wave Rider assisted in the recovery and clean-up process. HMS Richmond's helicopter helped to transport personnel across Grand Cayman and also assisted in assessing the scale of the damage.

Public health

  There was one confirmed fatality on Grand Cayman. A 52-year old Jamaican national suffered chest injuries when the hurricane took off the roof of a shelter in Bodden Town. Despite the best efforts of medical personnel, he died two days later on Tuesday 14 September. A 75-year old fisherman from West Bay, who was reported to have been seen securing his boat in heavy winds, is missing and is presumed dead.

  Cayman does not have a major outbreak of gastroenteritis although 17 children and three adults have so far been admitted to the hospital for treatment of diarrhoea and vomiting. Cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid are not endemic to the Cayman Islands and there have been no cases during this period. No mosquito borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever or West Nile virus have been reported. To prevent tetanus infections, tetanus boosters are being offered to everyone. About 13,000 doses have been given so far.

Recovery efforts

    —  Food supplies: In the aftermath of the hurricane, food was distributed around Grand Cayman, and supermarkets quickly reopened.

    —  Water: Soon after the hurricane struck, mains water supplies resumed on a limited basis, with water trucks stationed around Grand Cayman to ensure that clean water was available to local communities free of charge. The Water Authority has restored running water to much of Grand Cayman, although in some areas supplies are restricted to certain times.

    —  Electricity: Mains electricity supply has been restored to most of the capital, Georgetown, but much of the remainder of Grand Cayman is still without mains electricity. Many homes are being powered by generators. It could take up to three months to restore a full supply to all residents.

    —  Housing: Contractors, architects and quantity surveyors are co-ordinating their actions with the Government's Planning Department, and construction personnel are being flown in to help with reconstruction and to supplement local resources. Providing accommodation for construction workers is a major problem.

    —  Schools: No Government schools have reopened, and there is need for significant assistance with the rebuilding and repair of schools and in sourcing educational materials.

The clean-up programme

  The clean-up programme is progressing slowly. Ninety-five percent of all homes in Grand Cayman have been affected by the hurricane in some way. There is much dead vegetation, rubble, ruined vehicles and other debris to be cleared away.

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