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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 06:34 GMT 07:34 UK
'The island has outrageous spirit'
An islander surveys the devastation left by Hurricane Ivan
Hurricane Ivan has devastated the Cayman Islands
Hurricane Ivan ripped through the Cayman Islands just over a week ago.

The eye of the storm passed within 30 miles (48km) of Grand Cayman - one of three islands of the British dependency - leaving it devastated.

A British expatriate living on Grand Cayman told BBC News Online how both islanders and expats are beginning to rebuild their lives after the hurricane.


Samuel Howard works in the wine industry and lives in West Bay, Grand Cayman.

The island has reacted with outrageous spirit. I hear rumours of looting - I can absolutely, categorically say I haven't seen any signs of it, there are no armed men with machetes running around as people have said.

There is a curfew, but I feel incredibly safe. We have gone back to the old bargain system.

We are the fifth largest financial centre in the world, but money is absolutely useless. Petrol and water are far more in demand so everyone helps with vehicles. When their car dies they are given the batteries to start the motor.

Water queues

There has been one reported death and one very serious injury - a firefighter. Looking at the devastation, if we got away with just two deaths I would be absolutely amazed.

My colleagues are still here. South African airways chartered a plane of South African citizens out of the island - Air Canada and Air Jamaica did so too, and even Air Colombia.

British Airways put the prices up by about fourfold on flights going out of the island.

I phoned the Foreign Office to find out what was going on and they said they had no intention of evacuating citizens.

An overturned plane at Grand Cayman international airport
Buildings were destroyed and power cabled ripped down

They sent HMS Richmond over, which is here in the ocean, and apparently the Navy are helping with the patrolling on the streets.

They are not allowed to carry weapons on Cayman soil but we don't really need that anyway. They are just helping with water queues and things.

Seven Mile Beach is on the other side of the road from here. Every single power cable along the beach is down, so the national grid needs to be rebuilt.

They reckon it will take three to six months to get most of the island sorted, six to eight to be fully up and running.

Regarding the water, two-thirds of the island runs off reservoirs, and one-third is a desalination plant.

The reservoirs are completely shut, there's seawater in them and sewage and everything else.

The desalination plant means that yesterday and today we've had 20 minutes of water. They don't announce it - it's a nice way of rationing it, so you just wait for your toilets to fill up.

But it's not in short supply because they have many tankers and stuff. And bottled water is readily available and I don't think they are charging for it.

Panic

Before the hurricane people were very calm. Caymanians didn't panic in supermarkets - I've seen more chaos on Boxing Day in England and when we have half an inch of snow than what I've seen here.

There has been no price hikes - nobody charges you eight dollars for a bag of ice. The only thing we were let down on was the meteorologists.

They must know what a category five hurricane is like, but nobody told us it was going to destroy all the buildings.

If they had said that, people would have been more prepared. They were expecting strong wind and power off for a day or two, but they weren't prepared for this.

I suppose the authorities didn't want to cause panic before the event.



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