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U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Thanks American Airlines for Partnership

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#November 24, 2021 – After a remarkable tourism performance over the past 12 months, the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) is getting back to basics and strengthening its relationship with its airline partners.

During a visit to American Airlines’ newly minted headquarters in Dallas last week, U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan Jr. thanked the carrier for its strong commitment to the Territory during the COVID pandemic, which helped the destination register robust arrivals throughout the year.

Airports in both St. Thomas and St. Croix were hubs of activity as the airlines honored the Governor’s clear approach to managing the pandemic by keeping the Territory’s airports open and protecting lives and livelihoods through smart public health safety protocols.

Over the summer, American served St. Thomas with daily flights from New York and Philadelphia, twice daily flights from Dallas, and thrice daily service from Charlotte and Miami. On Croix, Charlotte flights arrived daily, while Miami service operated twice a day.

“Traditional seasonality was disrupted in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Governor Bryan, who highlighted that summer air arrivals rivaled and surpassed traditional winter statistics.

The governor underscored the Territory’s business-minded approach to route development, the work currently taking place to improve the islands’ infrastructure – including enhancements to airports, downtown and waterfront areas – and the rebuilding of hotels and resorts that were impacted by the 2017 hurricanes.

“We are undergoing a transformation for the better, and intend to not only lead the region across multiple tourism indicators, but also to work with our neighbors to help position the entire Caribbean as a first class location for vacationers and business travelers,” he said.

Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte, who also attended the meeting, said the Department of Tourism had begun amplifying its messaging in the marketplace. “As the world opens up, the availability of aircraft has become a challenge for small states and territories such as ours, so it is critically important to remain visible and strengthen our relationships across the sector,” he explained.

He added that the Territory will continue to communicate its value proposition and ensure that travelers have a seamless travel experience through its custom-built Travel Screening Portal. “Ease of access will continue to be our mantra as we position the Territory and prepare for upcoming challenges and opportunities in travel and tourism.”

During their visit to Dallas, the Governor interviewed with two-time Emmy award-winning journalist Vince Sims of NBC 5, while Commissioner Boschulte appeared on ABC’s daybreak show anchored by Cleo Greene, who got her first gig as a feature reporter on the island of St. Croix.

The USVI Commissioner of Tourism also met with representatives from Southwest Airlines to explore possibilities for new service into the Territory.

 

Photo Captions: 

Header: The USVI and American Airlines teams meet in Dallas: From left: AA’s Lindsey Hanbidge, Henning Greiser, Michael Eng and Brandon Norman; USVI Governor Albert Bryan Jr., Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte and Special Assistant to the Governor Dave E. Davis; and Haley Finkenbinder and Liz Plunkett of American Airlines.

Insert: USVI Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte (right) speaks with WFAA (ABC 8) morning anchor Cleo Greene on Sunday.

 

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International GANG behind DEADLY crime wave says TCI Premier

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, September 29, 2022 – International gangs are at least partially behind the unusual and tragic flare up of violence in the Turks and Caicos over the past month according to  Washington Misick, TCI Premier. He made the revelations in a National Address on Monday (September 26) night after the third double murder of the month.

“September has seen organized crime gangs including gangs with international and external affiliations fighting for control of the drugs money and territory in these islands. We are now subject to crime generated not just within our borders but without.”

In response, the country leader said resources were being mobilised to find those responsible ‘whether they are here or elsewhere’.

The premier did not delve into where these international affiliations were or which major organized gangs were reaching into the small archipelago.

The revelation does answer in part at least the perplexing question of why the sheer number of violent killings has risen so dramatically in a little over three weeks. For context 11 of the islands 22 murders this year were committed during that time.

It’s not only international gangs, the drug trade has been fingered by Misick as a major driver of the killings in the TCI. In a previous press conference Misick stressed, “At the heart of the gun violence in this country is drugs, that is what the fight is about and we all know that’s what the fight is about.”

In response the Turks and Caicos Islands Government is calling in the cavalry.  TCIG has requested reinforcements from the Caribbean, North America and Europe, the premier has revealed.

Several immediate actions are to be implemented in the coming weeks and they include:

  • More police officers will be deployed on the street especially in affected areas. While the regiment will not be joining them in the field they will they will take over administrative duties and maritime duties to free up more officers
  • An official letter has been sent to the Foreign Commonwealth development office and Prime Minister Liz Truss requesting military and police assistance. A response is expected shortly with “specific deliverables”
  • Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas have all been contacted to lend police reinforcement which Misick said “should result in boots on the ground” after ‘encouraging’ calls.
  • A request to the US Department of Homeland Security for surveillance aircraft  to patrol the ocean between TCI and Hispaniola to stop all types of smuggling.
  • Twenty-three officers will arrive in the coming days along with a inspector and a chief superintendent to set up a drug gun and gang unit.
  •  Interim and permanent forms of air support are being procured
  • Armored vehicles for police are being purchased and will arrive in the islands in three months

The new measures reflect the gravity of the situation and the request for heavier police presence as made by members of the public;many who are now grieving slaughtered loved-ones say the steps should have been made a lot sooner.

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Storm Troubles as September heats up late

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By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer

 

September 27, 2022 – Hurricane Ian moved near the Cayman Islands and was forecast to intensify rapidly and hit Cuba as a major hurricane late on Monday and then strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico before striking the west central coast of Florida on Wednesday.

Now millions in Tampa Bay, Florida are bracing for impact after a hundred year absence of any major storm.

So far, authorities in Cuba have suspended classes in Pinar del Rio province and planned evacuations on Monday as Ian gained strength and approach Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa. Cuba was also shutting down its train system ahead of the worst weather.

Senior Specialist at the United States National Hurricane Center Daniel Brown told The Associated Press early Monday that “Cuba is expecting extreme hurricane force winds, life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall.”

In the Cayman Islands, members of the government and opposition were working together to ensure that people were made as safe as possible and provided with supplies, plywood, and in some cases sandbags so that they could safely weather the storm, according to Premier Wayne Panton in a video on Sunday.

As of Monday, September 26, most of the customers on the island of Bermuda have received power with just about 200 properties still without electricity.

Last week Hurricane Fiona brought heavy rain and strong winds to the island causing about 29,000 customers, more than 80 per cent of the island’s sole power provider, Bermuda Electric Light Company to be without electricity on Friday morning.

The island has also started its restoration process and announced that it has reopened for business.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, more than a million people in the two countries are still without power and running water after the passing of Hurricane Fiona over the Islands last week.

A growing number of businesses in Puerto Rico, including grocery stores and gas stations, are temporarily closing across the territory as the outages drag on, sparking concern about the availability of fuel and basic goods.

As of Saturday, at least 16 people had died because of Hurricane Fiona, according to Puerto Rico’s Department of Health, which is tracking hurricane-related deaths on the island.

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Utility, Telecoms Companies Prepared for Peak of Atlantic Hurricane Season

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#Kingston, Jamaica, September 27, 2022 – As activity in the tropical Atlantic intensifies, the island’s major utility companies have indicated their preparedness for severe weather conditions.

Hon. Desmond McKenzie

Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Senior Manager, George Kates, said that the company has invested heavily in its disaster-preparedness plans, which were continually developed using many years of lessons.  He said that critical staff and third-party contractors are mobilised and emergency operation centres throughout the island are ready to be activated, when needed.

Additionally, he indicated that in disaster, the JPS maintains contact with the security forces and the National Works Agency (NWA), “because we can recover as fast as they allow us because they have to be ahead of us to clear roads and make way for our team to move”.

“I can comfortably say that the JPS is in an advanced stage of readiness. We are ready to respond to any eventualities,” Mr. Kates assured.

He was addressing a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Council at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Kingston on Friday (September 23).

During the meeting, which was convened by Portfolio Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, key private and public-sector entities outlined their state-of-readiness for Tropical Depression Nine, which strengthened into Tropical Storm Ian.

While the country was spared the worst effects of the system, it has since developed into a major hurricane and is expected to impact Cuba and Florida.

National Water Commission (NWC) Chairman, Mark Barnett, in noting the entity’s readiness, said that measures have been put in place to prepare for adverse weather conditions.  He noted that key townships across the island have been equipped with standby generators and that all NWC facilities in deep rural or urban areas will continue to operate “as long as it is safe to do so”.

He pointed out, however, that where the weather becomes severe, some facilities may experience disruptions or may be forced to shut down, especially those that rely heavily on reasonable quality water flow from rivers.

“We are making strides to ensure that we have the necessary infrastructure and necessary capacity in place for responsiveness, knowing very well that we are a [small] island state and we are subject to these events,” Mr. Barnett said.

“All in all, we feel pretty comfortable in terms of our preparedness,” he noted.

As it relates to telecommunications, the island’s two main providers also told the committee meeting that they are ready to face a disaster if one strikes.

FLOW’s Senior Compliance Manager, Keniesha Brown Plunkett, outlined that the company has put 12 disaster plans in place, which allows for response to situations in a timely manner.  She said that using lessons from the past, FLOW has actively trained its coordinators to respond to certain protocols and has identified key personnel in each parish, with the regional crisis management team also on standby if the local team requires assistance.

“We have tested our satellite phones that we have in stock and we’re also happy to say that we are supporting the national disaster programme. We have contributed to vests, we have sourced signs, and we [have helped to] ensure that shelter management programmes are up and running,” Mrs. Brown Plunkett noted.

Some of the challenges experienced by the company that may affect its disaster response include the theft of infrastructure, which includes batteries and copper wires, and damage outside the plant network caused by motor-vehicle accidents.

To mitigate these, the company has activated monitoring and tracking on its devices, sensitised communities to monitor any irregularities, and has undertaken routine assessments. There’s also an environmental management programme in place to manage hazardous waste, said Mrs. Brown Plunkett.  Furthermore, the company’s corporate communications team actively monitors and sends out alerts to the public, in the event of a weather system.

Head of Public Relations, Elon Parkinson, for his part, told the committee meeting that the company had activated its emergency management team to ensure full internal coordination.

“That includes our technical team that ensures that our sites are ready, that our facilities are topped up with fuel, that we have double-checked batteries to ensure complete reliance, that we have coordinated with our partners to make sure that they, too, are ready, that we establish lines of communication around the emergency messages,” Mr. Parkinson said.

He noted that the company had assured its business customers of the lines of communication and the strategies it will be undertaking, to maintain business continuity.

Additionally, the company had activated its social media pages to be used as a ‘community hub’ for information and to convey updates from the Government.

“As we do, we are supporting the overall government of Jamaica’s command and control communication efforts, and those efforts are going to be critical to getting Jamaica back on its feet again [in the event of severe weather],” he said.

The Atlantic Hurricane season runs annually from June 1 to November 30. Mid-August to about mid-October is considered to be the peak of the season when, statistically, the tropical Atlantic becomes the most active, and experiences the most dangerous storms.

 

Contact: Mickella Anderson

Release: JIS

Photo Captions:

Donald De La Haye photos

 

1st insert: Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, addresses a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council at the Ministry’s office in Kingston on Friday (September 23).

2nd insert: National Water Commission (NWC), Chairman, Mark Barnett, addresses a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Kingston on Friday (September 23).

3rd insert: FLOW’s Senior Compliance Manager, Keniesha Brown Plunkett, outlines the company’s disaster preparation plans during a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council on Friday (September 23) at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Kingston.

4th insert: Digicel’s Head of Public Relations, Elon Parkinson, discusses the company’s disaster preparation strategies during a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development’s Hagley Park Road headquarters on Friday (September 23).

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