(CMR) The Cayman Islands Government has given permission for eight helicopters carrying US military personnel to land in Grand Cayman tonight Sunday evening and Monday. The visit is part of US efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Haiti, following yesterday’s magnitude 7.2 earthquake in that country.
The confirmed death toll stands at 724 on Sunday but at least 2,800 people have been injured according to Haiti's Civil Protection Agency. Heavy damage had been reported in the cities of Jérémie and Les Cayes, an area that is less densely populated but also more remote. Thousands of homes and a multistory hotel collapsed, and some roads and bridges were impassable, complicating rescue and aid efforts.
The aircraft, which include three US Army CH-47 Chinook, three UH-60 and two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, will refuel and receive other services while on-Island. The first four helicopters, carrying 49 personnel, will touch down in Grand Cayman this evening and remain on Island overnight. The remaining helicopters and personnel will arrive tomorrow.
The aircraft will provide heavy and medium air-lift to any planned US Agency for International Development-led mission to reduce human suffering and bolster Haitian disaster response capabilities.
The helicopters and personnel are assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo, one of three task forces under United States Southern Command. Joint Task Force-Bravo operates a forward, all-weather, day/night, Category-5 capable airbase in Soto Cano, Honduras.
The request to land in Grand Cayman came from the US Southern Command and was approved by the United Kingdom and Cayman Islands Governments.
The Public Health Department and Travel Cayman are in touch with US military authorities to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are strictly followed during the visit. All personnel returned a negative PCR test result before receiving permission to enter the Cayman Islands.
The 7.2 earthquake has been devastating for the country still in recovery mode from the recent presidential assassination. The leadership void has hindered aid and rescue efforts but it's estimated that over 700 people have been killed. Saturday morning's earthquake caused snapped water lines, blocked roads, flattened grocery stores and damaged hospitals. Many believe that the country did not recover from the last disastrous quake more than 11 years ago.
The quake hit the town of Les Cayes and many are said to be transporting the injured into cars and onto private planes in an effort to evacuate them to the capital, Port-au-Prince for care. However, landslides and road conditions have made this difficult.
Now the country is bracing for Tropical Storm Grace was expected to pass over Haiti on Monday, although forecasters said it might spare the peninsula hardest hit by the quake.