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Premier says TCI is open for business, a fortnight after Irma


Premier says TCI is open for business, a fortnight after Irma

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GRAND TURK, Turks and Caicos Islands – The government of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) says the British Overseas Territory (BOT) is on the road to recovery nearly two weeks after it was hit by a Category 5 hurricane.

Premier Sharlene Cartwright Robinson has told a visiting delegation headed by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman and Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell that Turks and Caicos is open for business as life is slowly returning to normal.

“We are on the road to recovery,” said Cartwright ahead of her Cabinet’s first meeting planned for Tuesday, since the Hurricane Irma struck.

“We are rebounding well but we are going to build back and build back stronger”.

Cartwright Robinson told the delegation, which also included CARICOM Secretary General Erwin La Rocque and head of the Barbados-based Caribbean Emergency Disaster Management Agency (CEDMA) Ronald Jackson, that communications and power are being restored in most areas.

Schools which did not sustain heavy damage are scheduled to open this week while the government considers a shift system for students of other schools badly affected.

“Our priority very quickly was to get communications going. We have been facilitating them to get electricity back up and we are also going to supplement efforts of our electricity company,” the premier disclosed.

“We are allowing them to bring in so many personnel. Of course because the storm also hit Florida there was a delay in getting trucks in and other things coming through and of course to get our airport up”.

Buildings on several of the Turks and Caicos archipelago of 40 low-lying islands sustained heavy wind and rain damage.

Hurricane Irma damaged 95 per cent of homes on the island of South Caicos, 100 per cent of homes on Salt Cay and about 60 per cent of houses on Grand Turks, the country’s capital.

Storm surge as high as 13 feet were reported in some areas as coastal and damage assessment continue.

“We wanted to be here because we wanted to demonstrate to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands that CARICOM leadership and the CARICOM people as a whole are clearly behind what has taken place here,” said Mitchell, adding “and we are willing to work closely with you in the reconstruction effort”.

Some of the hotels which sustained damage will remain closed until the end of September while others will open in October.

Beaches Hotel, one of the largest contributors to the island’s economy responsible for 60 per cent of airlift, was forced to close until December 14th after sustaining major damage.

A command centre is operating on a 24 hour basis and several shelters remained open, including one in Grand Turks and another in the largest primary school on gateway island of Providenciales.

“When the Hurricane came it blew my house down,” a young boy who lived in the shelter told visiting reporters as danced with other kids to African beats emanating from a music box.

“I went to a hotel to survive”.

While CDEMA and United Nations agencies spearhead initial recovery efforts the premier is reporting a shortage of tarpaulin.

“It was heartening to see the children in the shelter, dancing, playing, singing,” noted Jackson.

“It is a good message that people are working with the government as you move towards your recovery and reconstruction phase. So we are here. We will do what we can over the next two weeks and we will continue to support your office”.

CARICOM has promised to give full support to the recovery efforts of Turks and Caicos, a British overseas territory, and plans are already underway for a donor’s conference.

“We know that in the coming weeks and months you are going to continue to need all the support you can get and we feel strongly that we ourselves will do what we can to help,” the CARICOM chairman added.

“We believe that if we pull our collective connections regionally and internationally we can be of valuable assistance to the People of the Turks and Caicos Islands “.

The visit to Turks and Caicos followed a similar trip last week the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Barbuda. (CMC)