Efforts intensified to help Jamaicans leave Irma-ravaged islands

Ronald Jackson
Efforts to assist Jamaicans to return home from Irma-ravaged islands in the Eastern Caribbean and the Turk & Caicos Islands have intensified.  
Ronald Jackson, Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), said Jamaicans stranded in the Turks and Caicos Islands could leave the country on Wednesday as commercial flights, to the best of his knowledge, have resumed.
He said CDEMA continues to work with the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Jamaica and other regional partners to assist Jamaicans in the British Virgin Islands.       
Commercial flights will resume in the BVI on Monday, he said, but until then, the organisation continues to make arrangements for persons to leave the country.  
Non-BVI nationals should leave
Meanwhile, a senior government official in the British Virgin Islands is encouraging non-nationals, who cannot find work after the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, to leave the country.  
Vincent Wheatley, Programme Coordinator in the Deputy Governor’s Office, made the call on Tuesday, pointing out that about 100 people remain in shelters on the island.  
Several CARICOM nationals, including those from St. Vincent & The Grenadines and Guyana are among non-BVI nationals being housed in a community centre.  
The building is roofless and is at risk of being flooded if it rains.  
Mr. Wheatley said, so far, there have been daily evacuations mainly to American and European countries, through helicopter service and a boat service to Puerto Rico.  
He said with the resumption of flights by LIAT,  scheduled to start Thursday or Friday, it is anticipated that persons from the rest of the Caribbean will be able to make their way home.  
The BVI has a population of 3,500 - a large number of which are expatriates.
St. Martin 
In the meantime, the CDEMA head said, as it pertains to St. Martin, the organisation has been working to compile a list of Caribbean nationals seeking to leave the island.  
He said the process is proving challenging as the logistics are complex.  
"You can't land a plane in St. Martin without people knowing that the plane is there...then you have to look at the capacity of the plane and the number of people who will want to get there. You could cause another problem if it's just a free for all of people trying to get to the plane," he reasoned. 
He added that, because there is martial law in the country, the airports are not freely accessible.
"This is why we need details so we can notify the respective personnel at the airport that a number of persons are coming through (and) an airline is going to be there to receive them," he explained. 
Mr. Jackson said a team from Suriname will be arriving in Dutch Sint Maarten shortly to facilitate the identification and processing of individuals who want to be evacuated.
The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), meanwhile, will be making payments totalling US$29.6 million to six Caribbean governments affected by Hurricane Irma.
The payments will be made under CCRIF's tropical cyclone insurance policy.
The Turks & Caicos Islands, Antigua & Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Kitts & Nevis, Haiti and The Bahamas will benefit from the payout.  
A statement from CCRIF on Tuesday said it continues to assess if any excess rainfall policies of its member countries were triggered by the rains from Hurricane Irma.  

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