Turks and Caicos, September 6th, 2017 – Providenciales –
“My Fellow Turks and Caicos Islanders, Residents and Visitors to our shores.
In the coming hours, we face a storm that is by all of man’s account, is poised to have a devastating impact on countries that it comes into contact with. Turks and Caicos Islands remain in its path and we are readying all systems to be able to endure the storm. Nonetheless, it is my Government’s position that a country is as ready as its people and so yesterday, the Hon Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Health and I made contact with Salt Cay, one of the Islands that is the subject of an Evacuation Order. We were able to travel to Salt Cay and explain the effects of the Order. We are pleased that a very large percentage of the population has left Salt Cay. However a few have elected to remain. Likewise the Minister of Home Affairs and I were able to join Town Hall Meetings in Middle Caicos who for the first time has been the subject of an Evacuation Order and regrettably, the majority has elected to stay. An Evacuation Order is never taken to be taken lightly and we are still hoping and praying that these individuals will comply and will not risk life. Experience has taught us that the remote Islands of Salt Cay and Middle Caicos can easily be cut off from access to assistance and with the magnitude of this Storm, there is a great possibility of loss of and damage to property as well as a great possibility of injury and loss of life. It is always better to be safe than sorry. We call on family and friends to assist in reaching out to relatives and friends and encourage them to comply with the Order. We see similar Evacuation Orders issued for Inagua and parts of Florida. The Government continues to encourage all residents to continue to rush in your preparations: secure your property, stock up on basic supplies but above all ensure you and your family’s personal safety. Shelters will be activated today and encourage those of you near the sea, in flood prone areas or in homes that you know are unable to withstand strong winds to seek refuge with family and friends in the first instance and then seek shelters if necessary.
Today we had hoped to travel to all of the other Islands today but because of the current circumstances, we are unable to.
The Hon Williams and I also used the opportunity last evening to address the creole and Spanish communities in a joint appearance on four radio Stations urging these communities to also rush in preparation. It remains my Government’s stance that of paramount importance at this time is the protection and preservation of life and though criticized, we have ceased all immigration operations to detain undocumented nationals. It is the right thing to do and we stand by it. I am therefore appealing to all documented and undocumented nationals in this country to seek refuge in safe premises.
I am personally disappointed that there are instances of price gouging and that too many merchants have seen it fit to exploit consumers at this time by raising prices on critical hurricane preparedness items. It is rather unfortunate. We are as a government cognizant of the fact that preparing for the storm on the heels of readying our children for school return can be challenging and we have agreed and as Minister of Finance, I signed a Warrant to allow for the payment of salary advances to Government workers. I ask only that you be wise and remember your obligations post storm. It is not meant to bring undue hardship which if not managed properly but help during a difficult time.
I am again appealing to members of the Private Sector to not be inconsiderate during these times, please allow your staff time to prepare for the Storm. There is a narrowing window and we appreciate that there are services that we continue to wish to access and we appreciate your accommodation but your staff must also be allowed to prepare for the storm. I encourage you to allow essential staff a reasonable and practical shift system that allows them to secure their property and prepare. I pray that many of you will reconsider your positions.
Additionally as Acting Minister of Tourism, I am grateful to the Airlines that have arranged rescue flights for tourists that are on Island. Unfortunately airlift could not be arranged for all but we are satisfied that all Hotels and Resorts have Plans that will ensure as best it can, their guests safety. We encourage all guests to remain indoors and to take all precautions to remain safe.
I am also pleased that the meeting held with stakeholders that included Telecommunication Communities, Airlines, Ferry Services, Utility Service Providers, Hotel Association demonstrated that they too are ready and have activated their individual plans. Government stakeholders continue to work hard to ensure that we as prepared as one can be to endure this storm.
Today marks 9 years since the passage of Hurricane Ike, many of us in the Salt Islands have been sharing our experiences over the years and more so over the past few days. What is obvious is that many are indeed fearful but have used that fear not to paralyze themselves into inaction but to fuel their preparations. As I drove through Grand Turk yesterday and visited key places like the Prison, DDME’s Office and RTC, I was pleased with the level of preparedness. That experience though sad has been the best teacher for many of us and encourage those of you had been fortunate not to experience it to take stock of the level of preparedness of Ike survivors. This storm is the largest storm ever formed in the Atlantic and CNN has dubbed it a different type of animal. I encourage us to not be paralyzed by fear or anxiety but to prepare and pray.
PREMIER CALLS A TIME FOR PRAYER
On September 6, 2008 many of us were praying to God for help from closets, under tables, compromised homes and in less than ideal situations. I am calling on us as a people to call on Him for help and mercy. Man can do as much as we can to prepare in anticipation of a storm but this country serves a God that is bigger than any storm and His voice can command stillness in the firmament that He has established by His hands. Our prayer must be for mercy and whilst many including Pastors in this island have said that this storm must come, we hold fast to our faith praying believing that God in His mercy will hear our prayer and the desires of our heart, not that we deserve it but because His mercies are new every morning and grace continues to abounds. To this end, I am calling on all prayer warriors to congregate at 5pm around this country. I want to encourage us all to leave indoor and pray and praise in open areas around the Islands. In Grand Turk, please go to the Parade Grounds, in Providenciales the Down Town Ball Park, in South Caicos, the Salina, in North Caicos in front of the DC’s Office, in Middle Caicos and Salt Cay, step outside of your homes and let us lift up our collective voices. On all Islands, if you are unable to make it to these locations, step outside wherever you are and pray. We are not looking for numbers, nor taking register, we are being obedient and know that at this stage and level of preparedness, we hand it over to Him publicly and declare it in the open heavens.”