By Thaleia Myōōz
Caribbean News Now contributor
SALT CAY, TCI — Most of the Caribbean is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria; but there is a tiny island in the archipelago chain of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) that has yet to receive assistance and is in desperate need of aid in multiple areas.
Salt Cay, which is the smallest of the inhabited islands in the TCI, is a triangular island measuring less than 2 square miles, and is covered largely by salinas dating back to the salt raking days. Salt Cay was pounded by category 5 Irma on 7 September 2017 and two weeks later category 3 Maria slammed it again.
The storms wreaked havoc on the north seawall, causing severe damage and compromising the harbour, which is the life support of the tiny island. The harbour is where the ferry from Grand Turk docks with food and supplies, and it is now filling with sand from the constant surge, making it difficult to get boats in and out safely.
With the recent sea surges continuing to bash the north side, the harbour will soon be gone. If the ferry cannot come into the harbour with supplies, the residents will be unable to receive food and materials to sustain everyday life.
A source said the government of the TCI wants to spend $700,000 to do a study to see what is needed instead of spending a fraction of that cost to repair the sea wall now. At a town hall meeting in December, Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson asked the residents what Salt Cay’s number one problem was. The response was unanimous: repairing the seawall was the first priority.
Nevertheless, at the time of writing, nothing has been done to help.
The harbour is also where the dive boats, whale watching boats, and local fishing boats are moored. If the harbour fills with sand, they will not be able to get in or out either.
The people of Salt Cay want and need the government to take action now and save their harbour. The residents are desperate and are reaching out to every source they know.
According to residents, the airport has no water, no working bathrooms, and the roof and walls are severely damaged. One resident said, “Tourists as well as employees are told to pee in the bushes.”
Tourists come from all over the world to visit this tiny jewel because of its remoteness, pristine white sand beaches, quaintness, unpaved roads, and undisturbed beauty. The North Atlantic humpback whales migrate past the island every year, bringing in tourists who want to experience these majestic creatures.
No harbour means no boats and no whale watching. With tourism being the only source of income, it is critical that something be done immediately to save this.
This tiny island and its people need other help as well. According to several residents, there is no working reverse osmosis system on the island and they have no way to obtain potable water other than collecting rain water. The government cisterns are still contaminated from the two storms and the island is out of water again. This is life threatening to the 40-plus full time residents who live there.
The surge is washing away the supports of one of the two cafes on the island, Coral Reef Café, which is a popular tourist spot, has lost two-thirds of its seating deck due to the loss of the seawall.
“The dump fences are down, which is causing trash to spread across the island,” said one resident.
The TCI’s brand is “Beautiful by Nature”, but the beauty is being lost to nature due to the lack of action by the government.
The unanimous voice of the people of Salt Cay is that they need help urgently and they don’t feel like any government body cares. Will they save Salt Cay?