Message: Hurricane Irene a Category 3 Hurricane continues to impact the Bahamas. Turks and Caicos warnings downgraded to Tropical Storm Warnings

The Bahamas continues to experience Hurricane conditions as Hurricane Irene moves across the archipelago.  At 5.00 p.m. today, the centre of Hurricane Irene was located near latitude 23.1 north and longitude 74.7 west, and is about 30 miles east south east of long Island and about 215 km south east of Nassau.   Hurricane force winds extend up to 60 miles from the centre and tropical storm winds extend outward to 230 miles. Irene moved across the Turks and Caicos Islands last evening as a Category One hurricane but continues to affect the islands which are experiencing tropical storm conditions.  Initial reports from Provo identified severe flooding.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the southeastern, central and northwestern Bahamas. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Turks and Caicos Islands.  

Irene is moving toward the northwest near 12 mph and that general motion is expected to continue through the night. Maximum sustained winds are near 120 mph with higher gusts.    A turn toward the north-north west and then north are expected Thursday and Thursday night.  

An extremely dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels over the Bahamas.  Near the coast the surge will be accompanied by large and dangerous waves.  

Irene is expected to produce additional rainfall accumulation of 6 to 12 inches in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.  

Irene is a Category 3 Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.   Additional strengthening is forecasted in the next day and Irene could become a Category 4 by Thursday 25th 2011.

Turks and Caicos Islands:

1.    Tropical Storm Warnings continue to be in effect for the Turks and Caicos Islands.
2.    Minor infrastructure damage and some localized flooding occurred in Grand Turk
3.    Initial assessments in Providenciales (Provo) have been impeded due to continuing tropical storm conditions (torrential rain and category 2 winds), poor visibility and intermittent communications
4.    Ninety (90%) per cent of homes in Gracebay have reported some minor damage and / or flooding
5.    No information on the effects of Irene on the outer Islands, especially Salt Cay, was available at the time of the report
6.    Roads are impassable due to flooding of up to three feet in some areas
7.    There are concerns that the dwellings of Haitian communities in Provo will be significantly affected (as those living in more robust houses have lost roofs). Assessment details and information on affected populations will be shared.
8.    Communications is intermittent but some contact can be made via cell and satellite phone.
9.    Power is out on both Grand Turk and Providenciales.

National Actions

i.    A meeting of the Policy Group was convened today to assess the situation and to advance response and recovery efforts.
ii.    The National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) remains activated. The Department of Disaster Management are leading efforts across the islands to fully assess the current situation, and to arrange for the restoration of power, clear blocked access roads, and reduce the water levels in flooded areas as quickly as possible.  
iii.    Rapid assessment is currently ongoing in Grand Turk
iv.    Efforts are being made to re-open the airports in Turks and Cacios Islands as soon as possible. If the all clear and assessment permits, they will be reopened later today 24 August (TCI local time).
v.    Turks and Caicos Red Cross have reported that 100 people have been relocated to three hurricane shelters on Provo and 15 people to shelters in Grand Turk.
vi.    Volunteers are operational and further volunteers are on standby to work in shelters if required.
vii.    The British Ministry of Defence has dispatched a relief vessel, Royal Fleet Auxiliary Wave Ruler, which will arrive off the Turks and Caicos Islands tomorrow (Wednesday August 25, 2011). The ship has a fully manned hurricane relief team embarked. The first task for the ship will be to send its helicopter to fly across all the islands in the TCI and provide a full survey and assessment of the effects of Hurricane Irene. This will inform allocation of available resources to meet immediate requirements, and seek outside assistance, if required, to restore services and communications as soon as practicable.

Immediate Needs

No needs identified for Turks and Caicos Islands so far.

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas:

1.    Hurricane warnings remain in effect for the Bahamas.
2.    During the passage of Hurricane Irene through the Bahamas, reports are that so far major islands affected were Mayaguana and also the Acklins and Crooked Islands. The eye of Hurricane Irene passed over the later two islands.  
3.    Contact was made with the Mayaguana island Administrator via satellite phone. The initial report is that power and telephone are down and that some structural damage has occurred to incomplete buildings. So far, some homes have lost their roof but no report of fatalities, injuries or damages.
4.    Other means of communications are also down on Acklins and Crooked islands   
5.    No flooding has been reported as the storm appears to have brought more winds than rain and water.

National Actions
1.    Shelters are up and running, one hundred and eleven persons (111) are in shelters mainly on Acklins and Crooked Islands.
2.    The focus is now on Long Island, Cat Island, Eleuthera and Abaco as the projection is for the storm to pass over very close to these islands as a Category 3 or Category 4.  
3.    The NEOC is in contact with those islands to make sure that precautions are taken to safeguard life and property.
4.    The Bahamas Defence Force has deployed a vessel to safe harbour which is expected to begin assessments of the southern Bahamas islands and provide initial assistance to the impacted populations once the all clear is provided.
5.    The Airport in New Providence was closed as of 2:00pm today (August 24th 2011)

Immediate Needs
The initial needs have been identified for damage assessment and military engineer teams for rebuilding.

Regional Response
1.    The CDEMA Coordinating Unit has been monitoring the situation and maintained contact with threatened states. So far the CDEMA CU has prepared and shared five (5) Information Notes and one (1) Situation Report on the system since its development.
2.    Two CDEMA CU staff members are being deployed to the staging area as a first step in possible onward engagement in the threatened states. They will be responsible for finalising with the impacted and transit states the policy, financial and logistical arrangements for a CARICOM response.
3.    The CDEMA CU is also collaborating with the Sub-regional focal point for the north-western sub-region (Jamaica) for the identification of nationals to form frontline technical teams in key areas of emergency response.
4.    Jamaica, the North-western SRFP, will be used as a staging area if necessary for deployment and redeployment of relief supplies and technical teams.
5.    Regional Technical Teams are on standby and prepared for deployment.
6.    The regional warehouses have been alerted are on standby and have provided updated inventories for the emergency supplies.  
7.    CDEMA continues to brief partners within the Regional Response Mechanism (RRM) and discuss response and relief assistance and operations plans.
8.    CDEMA is also advancing arrangements to interface the Regional Response Mechanism with the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. In the context of our common Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), UN OCHA has offered their support to supplement the efforts of the Regional Response Mechanism.  CDEMA will continue to liaise with UN OCHA to advance these arrangements as necessary.

The RRM remains on standby. The CARICOM Disaster Relief Unit (CDRU) is also on standby and arrangements continue to be advanced for deployment of military engineering teams if needed.

CDEMA will continue to monitor and assess the situation and provide updates as warranted.

Contact Details: The CDEMA CU 24hr contact number is 1 246 425 0386