Caymans slowly recover from Ivan
By Alexandra Mackworth-Gee for CNN
|CATEGORY 5 HURRICANES|
- Unnamed storm, 1935, Florida
- Camille, 1969, Mississippi
- Andrew, 1992, Florida
(CNN) -- A week after Hurricane Ivan ripped through the Cayman Islands, residents are still trying to come to grips with the devastation left in its wake.
About one in five houses were destroyed beyond repair and a quarter of buildings that remain are uninhabitable. Hundreds of people are still living in shelters while they attempt to repair their homes.
Steve John, a Cayman Islands government spokesman based in London, said the capital George Town now has limited power and Internet access is also available again.
Electricity pylons are still strewn across the landscape and access to water is limited.
Two-thirds of the island's water comes from reservoirs while the rest is from a desalination plant. The reservoirs are completely shut due to contamination by seawater and sewage.
Living conditions are starting to improve, although most roads on the eastern side of the island are impassable because of debris. Esso has now opened three petrol stations on the island limiting customers to CI$20.00 (US$25.00) of petrol on each visit.
Although the Red Cross is providing emergency food packages, water purification tablets and plastic sheeting, many residents have taken it upon themselves to supply the island with vital resources -- such as generators, plywood, chainsaws and canned food.
The Florida Cruise Ship Association provided a cruise ship on Tuesday loaded with relief supplies.
Residents estimate it could take up to a year for the island to recover. Nevertheless, John Hurlstone of Hurlstone Construction Group based in George Town said: "By Christmas, we hope to have the tourist area, the West End strip, fully functioning. The Holiday Inn is already open and the new Hyatt hotel hopes to open in November."
Tourists and residents are still struggling to leave the island as Cayman Airways runs an emergency evacuation service on a first come, first served basis. South African Airways chartered a plane of South African citizens out of the island. Air Canada and Air Jamaica did the same thing for residents of those countries.
A British expatriate, Samuel Howard, living in West Bay, Grand Cayman, said British Airways were not evacuating citizens from the island.
Cayman Airways flights are departing to Miami, Jamaica, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. However, this has led to extensive crowding at the airport.
Many residents are escaping to Cayman Brac, which suffered minimal damage from Ivan and has running water and electricity.
Despite the damage and confusion, there have been few incidences of looting.
"The police have the situation under control," Hurlstone said. "There is a great spirit of camaraderie here with residents working together with the authorities to try and help."
Volunteers are being sworn in as special constables to help patrol the island.
Although the government has declared a state of emergency, there is a feeling among residents and tourists that the government is actively trying to play down the crisis for fear of undermining the huge offshore banking industry and destroying the tourism industry.
"It should not be covered up," former government minister Charles Kirkonnell said. "We have a disaster, we have a catastrophe on our hands. It needs to be met. We need to be truthful about the whole thing."