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Hurricane Frances Wrapup [10 Sep 2004]: 'Seaweed Clogs Cove; Bridge Closed'
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Posted by:Sep 16th 2004, 11:31:09 am
Fig Tree News TeamHurricane Ivan Devastates Cayman Islands in Sweep of Caribbean

Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Ivan, responsible for at least 60 deaths across the Caribbean, devastated the Caymans, tearing off roofs and washing away parts of houses and apartment buildings on the tiny islands known for international banking.

Grand Cayman was submerged in a 15- to 20-foot tidal surge as the storm passed yesterday. The island was for a time split into two, as the ocean swept across the west coast at Seven Mile Beach, said Gray Smith, a partner in Maples and Calder, the largest law firm on the island. Smith spoke by telephone from the firm's London Office.

``We were out of contact entirely for more than 24 hours,'' he said, before reaching some of the firm's 200 Cayman-based employees by cell phone today.

Smith said power and telephone service remains out, and more than half the island's buildings lost their roofs as the hurricane swept through.

The firm's Ugland House headquarters in George Town was damaged when the roof of Queensgate House next door flew off, he said. Maples has offices in both buildings.

The winds of the Category 5 hurricane ripped homes apart like ``matchsticks,'' reporter Paulette Connolly said in a Citadel Radio interview monitored by Cayman Net News. Cars and trucks floated away like toys during the storm surge, she said.

``It is unimaginable. We are devastated. The sea went through apartments,'' Connolly said, Cayman Net News reported.

There are reports of deaths on the island known for its international banking. While some Cable & Wireless cellular phones are working sporadically, other services are out, the news agency said.

The Caymans provide near-total financial secrecy for companies, banks and accounts. There are more than 500 banks and trust companies with deposits of more than $1 trillion in the Cayman Islands, according to the Cayman Monetary Authority.

That's more deposits than there are in New York City. The Cayman Islands are about one-third the size of New York City.
Posted by:Sep 10th 2004, 03:54:30 pm
Fig Tree News TeamFriday, September 10, 2004

Seaweed clogs cove; bridge closed
By Gladstone Thurston
Bahamas Information Services

GREGORY TOWN, Eleuthera Tons of seaweed, dredged from the ocean by Hurricane Frances, has clogged the harbour and matted the streets of this coastal community.

And, Eleuthera's famous Glass Window Bridge, just north of here, has been officially closed to all vehicular traffic, except those of essential services.

"I recommend that this bridge be closed immediately," said engineer Hammond Rahming of the Bahamas Society of Engineers. He described it as "an accident waiting to happen."

Deputy Prime Minister Cynthia Pratt, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Peet, and North Eleuthera Member of Parliament Alvin Smith headed an assessment team to Gregory Town, Hatchet Bay and James Cistern on Wednesday.

All of these towns took a battering from the near 140-mile-per hour winds and the savage sea as Hurricane Frances trekked past North Eleuthera and into Abaco last week.

There was severe coastal erosion, especially along the road between James Cistern and the Governor's Harbour airport.

Some houses were demolished and householders lost all furnishings as a result of severe flooding.

Deputy Prime Minister Pratt promised "prompt attention" in addressing the clogged harbour and the resulting stench from dead marine animals.

"The situation with the cove in Gregory Town really concerns us," said Mrs Pratt. "The surge from the sea brought in tons of seaweed. Apparently the seaweed is lying on the top of the water like a blanker and under that is where we get a stench from the dead fishes and that poses a health problem.

"The cove is right next to the primary school. We are concerned about that and that must be addressed as soon as possible. The school will not be able to open because it has been severely damaged."

Mr Rahming, past president of the Bahamas Society of Engineers, and a volunteer with the national disaster assessment team, was concerned about the soundness of the bridge that connects several north Eleuthera towns with the remainder of the island.

On the northern side of the bridge there is the deep blue surging Atlantic Ocean and on the south side the flats are almost mirror calm.

"The bridge has shifted further for the worse," Mr Hammond reported to Mrs Pratt, the Minister for National Security. "The support for the bridge on the northern side has gotten worse. The remedial columns that supported the original beams have lost bearing.

"We viewed the abutment from under the bridge and we saw that the abutment has started to fail. We saw vertical cracks on the eastern side of the abutment. We also saw that there was significant loss of bearing of the main beams of the bridge.

"The bridge ought not to be used for everyday use. It should only be used in cases of emergency. We feel very strongly about that because we feel that the continued use of this bridge by vehicular traffic will continue to impart vibration which will cause further damage. Basically, this is an accident waiting to happen."

The Bahamas Society of Engineers is volunteering its services as the country recovers from Hurricane Frances.

"It has always been one of the quality planks of the Bahamas Society of Engineers to assist in national disasters, give our opinion, make our services available to the government to make sure that the Bahamian people normalize their everyday activity as soon as possible," said Mr Rahming.

The decision to close the bridge will have a serious impact on commerce in his constituency, noted North Eleuthera MP Mr Smith. He is calling for a new thoroughfare.

"This bridge has been through a lot. It has served us well. But it is time now to build another bridge," said Mr Smith. "I know there were plans for a causeway. I cannot express in words the urgency of building a causeway or some other means to replace the bridge. It has to be done right away."

The bridge connects the more prosperous northern part of his constituency with the south.

"The strength of the economy of Eleuthera is in North Eleuthera," he said. "You have almost 300 people going to Harbour Island every morning from the mainland of Eleuthera. Many of them live south of the bridge. Many of the taxi drivers in my constituency live south of the bridge. If they cannot drive over the bridge some accommodation has to be worked out for them to move to and from their job site."

Mr Smith wants a rerouting of the road between James Cistern and the Governor's Harbour airport. It was damaged in '92 with Andrew, in '99 with Floyd and again last week.

"Government has to look at shifting the road, bringing it more interior away from the coast," said Mr Smith. "I believe even if government would have completed the seawall, that road still would have been damaged. In my view the seawall is not high enough to protect the road."

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