State of emergency declared in Turks and Caicos as premier criticised for late response

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NOAA's windstream with peak winds of hurricane Irma right above the Turk and Caicos Islands on 7 September 2017, Source NOAA Windstream

PROVIDENCIALES, TCI — A state of emergency has been declared for the island of Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), which suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Irma, as Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson came under fire for her perceived dilatory response to the dire situation in the islands.

The director of tourism Ramon Andrews reported that the TCI experienced flooding, structural damage, roofs blown off, downed trees, no loss of life and all visitors are safe.

Many roads have been flooded and power lines and transformers are down, according to the emergency management agency.

With no official statement immediately forthcoming from the TCI government, a local pastor said it was unacceptable that that the premier and the government had not visited the hardest hit areas of the British territory 12 hours after the storm had passed.

“In Providenciales, it is unacceptable and unsafe that 12 hours after the storm has passed there has been no attempt to remove not a single pole from the roads including dangerous poles still lying on Leeward Highway. What are we waiting on to begin pumping the water off the roads and removing the poles? A British warship that will only come here for a photo shoot? We have lost a day already. Let’s us not waste any more time,” Pastor Jolly added.

Cartwright-Robinson said she has since visited Grand Turk using the Cayman Islands police helicopter.

“As reported already, there is much structural damage to homes, businesses and government buildings, no lives lost,” she said.

Local telecommunications provider LIME was expected to begin its work to restore connectivity.

Relief has been organised for South Caicos, which also suffered considerable damage, and relief items are being organised as well for Grand Turk.

Cartwright-Robinson promised a full update on Monday morning.

Commissioner of Police James Smith said he had personally visited Grand Turk, Salt Cay, South and Middle Caicos.

“There are extensive damages, communications are down, however no injuries or death reported as a result of Hurricane Irma,” he said.

The Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority (TCIAA) said that scheduled carrier flights remain suspended within the TCI until further notice as they assess the aftermath of the storm and focus on emergency and rescue flights.

Local utility company FortisTCI said it has begun the task of assessing the impact of the hurricane on transmission and distribution assets, generation facilities, and support infrastructure to determine the extent of system degradation, and the levels of resource needed.

Its parent company, Fortis Inc., said that employees from Canada will travel to the TCI as soon as the airport reopens. These employees include power line technicians, design technologists, mechanics and engineers, and are expected to be on the ground for a three-week period. A second crew will replace the initial team to continue the support; this group will include employees from its United States-based utilities.

Updates from individual resorts in the TCI are as follows:

  • Alexandra Resort, Blue Haven Resort and Beach House: All guests and staff of the three resorts are reported safe and unharmed, and are remaining on property pending further instructions from the authorities on the conditions of roads, electricity and the status of the airport. The resorts have sufficient supplies, food and water to care for all guests in the interim. The resorts sustained some wind and water damage due to the storm, and will be closed for arrivals for 30 days through 8 October.
  • Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa: All guests are safe – no power or water yet
  • Gansevoort Turks & Caicos: All guests are safe, power off and water is temporarily off, phones are out but cell and internet are working
  • La Vista Azul: All guests are safe – no power or water yet
  • Ocean Club Resorts: All guests are safe – no power or water yet
  • Ports of Call Resort: All guests are safe – no power or water yet
  • The Regent Grand: All staff and guests are safe
  • Sands at Grace Bay: All is well
  • Seven Stars Resort: All guests are safe – no power or water yet
  • The Shore Club: All staff and guests are safe
  • Villa Del Mar: All guests are safe, power and water off
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