Turks and Caicos Islands

Hurricane Ike in Turks and Caicos: Appeal for health emergency needs


Hurricane Ike passed over the Turks and Caicos Islands on the night of the 6-7 September 2008 as a Category 4 hurricane. The Turks and Caicos Islands have six main inhabited islands and are located 550 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, just below the Bahamas chain and just to the east of Cuba and the island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti.)

The most affected Island was Grand Turk, which has 4,000 inhabitants and South Caicos, where no information is available about its 1,000 inhabitants.

In Grand Turk, 348 people were in shelters. An estimated 95% of houses have roof damage; 50% of these with severe damage and 20% totally lost. Between 5-10% of houses were

completely destroyed, mostly located in the lower income areas. The hospital in Grand Turk suffered damage in all areas, and 75% of the hospital was severely damaged. As the eye of the storm passed over the Islands at 3 a.m., 94 patients, staff and families members were relocated from the different parts of the hospital to the operating theatre. Ten geriatric patients are still housed in the operating theatre. There were no deaths and two injuries have been reported so far. It is challenging to maintain the appropriate level of staffing, as the hospital staff themselves are victims of the storm with damage to their homes. There is no running water or electricity. The hospital pharmacy suffered roof damage and most of the drugs were lost. The prison and police station have also been severely damaged.

Salt Cay has approximately 70 residents who were pre-evacuated to Grand Turk. A flyover of Salt Cay showed severe flooding in the south of the island and widespread damage, although not as severe as Grand Turk.

Providenciales which has 19,000 inhabitants escaped the worst of the storm and the hospital did not suffer any major damage. The St Monica Shelter suffered some manageable roof damage.

Needs to be Covered in this Appeal

All six islands were affected last week by Tropical Storm Hanna (1-3 September). PAHO deployed a water and sanitation engineer (member of the PAHO/WHO Health Emergency Response Team who is on the ground performing the needs assessment.

The PAHO/WHO assessment indicates that the primary needs in the health sector are support related to maintaining the provision of health care, support to the vector control program and ensuring the quality of the water.

Provision of health services

The British Royal Navy has been helping to secure the roof of the hospital and the contractor who is building the new hospital has been asked to mobilize and relocate his crew to repair the damaged hospital.

Much of the health workforce was already stretched to the limit and tired because of Tropical Storm Hanna. Temporary replacement staff is required to triage emergency cases and provide significant support at the Accident & Emergency Department. Although staff is being mobilized from Providenciales to cover shifts, extra support will be needed.

Vector Control activities

The objective of this area of intervention is to prevent the spread of communicable diseases due to an increase in the vector population. Although the island is reported as malaria free, the islands' surveillance system does not efficiently capture the disease conditions in the large migrant populations which come from malaria endemic countries and is recognized as a potential public health threat. The acquisition of extra spraying equipment, the purchase of insecticides and personal protective equipment, and spraying high-risk areas for mosquito breeding sites during the first three months after the hurricane will be required.

Water quality

Turk Island relies on a desalination plant for its potable water. At this point there is no running water and the water is being shipped in. Estimates are that at least 2 more days will be required to reconnect the electricity and then start producing water. Water quality is always a key problem following any disaster and is one of the principal contributors to health problems. Close monitoring of the water sources, testing of water quality levels, and treatment of contaminated water sources to restore safe drinking water supply, purchase of chlorine and water testing equipment are essential to preserve health.