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Page last updated at 14:05 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 15:05 UK

Paradise flattened in storm's wake

The BBC's Andy Gallacher is the first British journalist to reach the Turks and Caicos Islands which were battered by Hurricane Ike last weekend. Here he describes what he saw.

Local residents walk past the damage on Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands, on 8 September 2008
Much of Grand Turk's infrastructure has been destroyed
The devastation on the island of Grand Turk is absolute.

Nothing has been left untouched by the sheer power of Hurricane Ike.

It made landfall as a category four storm and the damage is immense.

The streets are strewn with debris, palm trees have been shattered and 90% of the buildings have been damaged; some are simply no longer there.

"It was terrible, the whole earth was shaking, the house was rocking," said resident Austin Dickinson, who decided to ride the storm out.

"There was a point in time when I thought everything was going to crumble on us. The house was dancing from side to side, it was like the world was coming to an end."

Austin's house has been completely destroyed but he is determined to rebuild what he calls his "paradise home".

Long term problems

But the infrastructure on the island has been almost entirely destroyed by the storm.

Power cables are strewn around like matchsticks, the courthouse is a tangled wreck and the islanders face months if not years of rebuilding their homes.

We save life initially and then relieve suffering in the community as quickly as we can
Cdr Mark Newland
Royal Navy

Roland Hull, a resident of the Turks and Caicos islands, moved here after visiting Grand Turk.

When he saw the extent of the damage the British Red Cross volunteer broke down in tears.

"I'm really upset to see the state its now in," said the former schools' inspector.

The British Red Cross is now getting aid into this chain of 40 islands any way it can.

Planes and boats are being used to get fresh water and food to the islanders, many of whom have been left homeless.

Flooded area of Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands on 9 September 2008
Parts of Grand Turk are still flooded

"We can't just stand by and let them carry on," said Mr Hull.

"We need to pitch in and work together and make it work, and we can make it work because that's what we do."

The Royal Navy is also on hand to aid in the recovery effort; the Turks and Caicos islands are British Overseas Territory.

HMS Iron Duke and Royal Fleet Auxillary Wave Ruler are anchored off the battered shores of Grand Turk and teams of sailors are using their expertise to bring some relief.

Commander Mark Newland is the commanding officer of the Iron Duke.

"We save life initially and then relieve suffering in the community as quickly as we can," he said.

That suffering could be long term.

Grand Turk and South Caicos islands were the worst hit by Hurricane Ike, and for the Turks and Caicos this could be a huge setback.

These islands depend on tourism and it may be some time before anyone is able to visit again.




SEE ALSO
Regions, territories: Turks and Caicos Islands
22 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

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