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Monday 18 December 2017
Regional

TT aid for Irma-struck islands

Destruction in St. Maarten

Trinidad and Tobago (TT) having been spared the wrath of Hurricane Irma, local businesses and NGOs have begun mobilising relief supplies which will be sent to our neighbours 'up the islands'.

Among them are the ANSA McAL Group of Companies (ANSA McAL) and Habitat for Humanity Trinidad and Tobago (Habitat TT)

Speaking with Newsday yesterday, ANSA McAL said while its Caribbean operations "have not been adversely affected by Hurricane Irma – as far as we know at this time," it was working with its distributors in Antigua and Dominica to organise shipments of matches and bleach to affected islands.

ANSA McAL's Head of Corporate Communications, Sharon Balroop, said, "We are concentrating on getting our distributors based in Antigua and Dominica to send matches from our Trinidad Match Ltd company and ‘Clean & White’ bleach from ANSA Chemicals to affected people up the island chain. Operations in Antigua and Dominica are up and running. We are donating as much stock as we can right now."

Meanwhile an appeal for donations has been issued by Habitat TT to "help rebuild Barbuda after Hurricane Irma."

Noting that Antigua and Barbuda's Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, has described the housing stock in Barbuda as "decimated", Habitat for Humanity said it has identified Adventist Disaster Relief Agency (ADRA) as its main partner in the response effort.

The NGO is awaiting ADRA's "field assessment reports from the South Leeward Mission, in order to inform our fundraising initiative for Barbuda's rebuilding" but donations can be made ahead of this, via two options.

Either online via the Habitat TT website at www.habitat-tt.org/donate-now - which has a donation range of TT $60 to $1,200, or via a deposit to its Republic Bank Limited bank account # 180482534101

Money donated through either of this channels will be "directed to purchase" a variety of items. Habitat TT said the first priority would be "transitional shelter products like tarpaulins, plywood, hammers, nails, et cetera", followed by clean up kits with mops, disinfectant and so on.

Additionally, food and hygiene products for men, women and children will be purchased using the money raised.

Habitat TT said it "may also be asked to assist in the physical reconstruction of transitional or permanent shelters."

Communications has been spotty at best in places worst-hit by Irma.

Cable and Wireless Communications (C&W Communications) was still assessing the damage yesterday. Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands are among the Caribbean countries to which it provides either one or all three of the following: broadband, mobile and cable.

Responding to Newsday's queries yesterday, C&W Communication's Senior Director of Consumer Communications, Wendy McDonald, said, "Our network has been resilient and in several instances is the only network that remained operational during the hurricane."

McDonald noted however that the company is "most concerned about the welfare of our employees and citizens of the affected islands and are in the process of supporting restoration services. We will provide an update as soon as more information is available."

RBC Royal Bank's TT office (RBC) told Newsday it was "still assessing the extent of impact" yesterday of both Hurricane Irma and the then approaching Hurricane Jose.

RBC expressed concern for its colleagues and people across the region who are dealing with or bracing for these hurricanes.

The bank also said its Caribbean Incident Management Team "is in constant communication with national agencies to ensure our precautionary and relief efforts are coordinated and efficient."

"In the last few days, we activated our crisis management protocols to address the well-being of our employees. We are gauging any potential damage to our premises to determine if and when we will be able to re-open our branches to provide service to our clients. RBC is assessing the impact to our clients, employees and communities and will mobilise assistance accordingly."

RBC added that, "As a committed partner in the region, we will work with our employees, clients and communities directly impacted by the hurricane to ensure their safety and then turn our attention toward supporting recovery and rebuilding efforts."

Newsday also spoke with an official from Republic Bank Limited (RBL), who said, "Except for Cayman Islands and Cuba, our Caribbean subsidiaries are not located in the direct path of Hurricane Irma and banking operations have continued as normal."

The RBL official added, "We are maintaining close contact with our Cayman Operations at this time, though Cayman Islands National Weather Service has stated that Irma's forecast path does not currently threaten the Islands."

"We empathise with our Caribbean brothers and sisters that were severely affected by the Hurricane and will lend assistance wherever possible," RBL assured.

Flights continue to be affected by the passage of Irma across the Caribbean basin. They include the cancellation of 12 Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) flights on Sunday, 10 September originating in or departing from: Port-of-Spain in Trinidad; Kingston in Jamaica; Montego Bay in Jamaica; Nassau in The Bahamas; Fort Lauderdale in Florida; Miami in Florida; and Orlando in Florida.

CAL said, "Affected customers travelling on September 10, 2017 will be permitted to change or cancel their reservations without penalty subject to the following conditions:

Passengers must have a confirmed ticket issued before September 10, 2017;

Passengers who choose to have their tickets refunded, must do so by September 17, 2017;

Passengers who choose to change their reservations, must complete their travel by September 17, 2017, unless travel on the ORIGINAL booking was after this date. Travel must be in the same cabin as the original; and

Caribbean Airlines WILL NOT be responsible for arrangements or transportation to/from an alternate airport or hotel/overnight expenses incurred by affected passengers.

CAL customers are advised to visit www.caribbean-airlines.com to check their flight status before going to the airport or call the Caribbean Airlines Call Centres for further details.

American low-cost carrier, JetBlue Airways Corporation (JetBlue), had cancelled approximately 130 flights as of September 6. The airline announced on Wednesday that it was reducing fares in order to help people evacuate from Florida ahead of Irma's arrival.

Business Insider reported that the "price of non-stop flights out of Florida to $99 including tax. Connecting flights out of Florida will cost a bit more, at $159. In addition to airports in Florida, the $99 fares apply to Charleston International and Savannah/Hilton Head International, as well as select airports in Haiti, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and the Bahamas. Subject to availability, the $99 fares will be on sale through September 13. JetBlue is also adding flights to its schedule in cities where it has spare aircraft it can operate."

JetBlue has also waived cancellation and change fees for those with existing reservations as well as waived price differences for customers to rebook flights.

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