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Earthquake Damage Assessment

Following the 7.7 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday, 28 January, a cross-departmental contingent of teams have spent today (Wednesday, 29 January) conducting a thorough damage assessment across all three Cayman Islands.

On Grand Cayman, four teams from the Department of Planning have conducted a systematic assessment of buildings, beginning with areas of most pressing concern. These include infrastructure of significant importance, zones of high occupancy or areas with vulnerable ground conditions.

The teams continue to operate methodically across Grand Cayman, with efforts focused primarily on West Bay, Seven Mile Beach and Bodden Town. So far, damage reported has been superficial, including minor structural damage to windows and some plumbing/leaking issues in West Bay.

The Department is primarily monitoring issues of structural integrity, such as cracks to buildings and damage to pipelines that may pose a hazard. Thanks to the implementation of a stringent building code and vigorous inspection procedures in the Cayman Islands, the level of damage encountered so far has been superficial.

The Department is focusing on any issues resulting in serious damage; homeowners are asked to conduct assessments on their own properties and to consult with private, structural engineers or the Department if concerned.

Director of Planning Haroon Pandohie stresses that the efforts of his Department have been facilitated by the “robust building code and thorough inspection process” in operation across the Cayman Islands.

“It is testament to the processes we have implemented that teams from Planning have found no serious damage after yesterday’s sizable earthquake. We will continue to conduct thorough assessments to ensure that remains the case. The public should take precautions and remain vigilant to the possibility of changing conditions and unstable ground,” Mr Pandohie states.

Noting that sinkholes have been a concern on all three islands, the National Roads Authority (NRA) has been implementing comprehensive assessments across the road networks. (Acting) Director of the NRA Ed Howard notes there have been some sinkholes reported on the public road network and teams are constantly monitoring and responding to reports.

Repairs are currently underway at the following locations: South Sound Road, near the jetty; Oakmill Street; Norbrook Street; Rum Point Drive; West Bay Cemetery Beach and Invicta Drive. Members of the public are urged to report any sinkholes on public roads to the NRA on 525-1251.

Additionally, the Public Works Department’s (PWD) has been assisting the Department of Planning through assessments to the structural integrity of schools across Grand Cayman.

(Acting) Director of PWD, Leyda Nicholson-Makasare explains that, under the coordination of Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI), the Department has conducted visual assessments on all government schools on Grand Cayman. Working with the Department of Education and their facilities management teams, the main concern is to ensure the schools are sound and children and staff can return to the classroom in safety, with confidence.

The Minister for Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure Hon. Joey Hew, under whose remit these agencies fall, thanked the abovementioned departments for their efforts. He also added his gratitude to members of the public who have supported their work by using the designated NRA hotline (525-1251) to report sinkholes in public roads.

“We are thankful that there was no loss of life and not much damage, considering the size and power of the earthquake and its aftershocks,” Minister Hew states.

He adds: “Our crews from Department of Planning, NRA and Public Works Department continue to conduct assessments at this time and we should have more to report in the coming days. We urge persons to reach out to the NRA so we can quickly assess and remediate what damages have been caused to our road network.”

On the Sister Islands, full inspections and damage assessments have been conducted under the leadership of the District Administrator. No significant damage has been reported thus far, but reinforcements from the Department of Planning remain on standby to assist if required. An education inspector will be deployed on Cayman Brac and in Little Cayman tomorrow (Thursday, 30 January).

Shelters across all three Cayman Islands have now been deactivated and persons are reminded to continue to monitor http://www.caymanprepared.ky/ as their definitive source of updates and guidance.

For further information contact: Caroline James