Jamaica 1988

International Information

International Operation Name: Jamaica 1988

International Mission Name: Jamaica 1988

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: Central America

Location: Jamaica

Mission Date: 14 September 1988 - 15 October 1988

Canadian Forces (CF) Information (Jamaica 1988)

Canadian Task Force Mission Statement: To deliver humanitarian aid to Jamaica and support reconstruction after Hurricane Gilbert.

CF Mission/Operation Notes: On 12 September, one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever moved along the entire length of the island of Jamaica. With winds of up to 200 km/h (category 3) when it hit the island, Hurricane Gilbert did tremendous damage to the capital city of Kingston. Gilbert than actually increased in strength to a category 5 hurricane as it moved off to devastate the Cayman islands and then the Yucatan Peninsula.

In Jamaica, at least 500,000 people were left homeless (almost a quarter of the population) as the hurricane ripped roofs off buildings and damaged critical infrastructure such as hospitals, power and the water supply. Such was the power of the hurricane that fishing boats were blown kilomters inland. The International Red Cross appealed for food, blankets, bedding and plastic sheets and metal sheeting for temporary shelter construction.

Canada, through the Canadian Red Cross, provided over 16,000 blankets, 12,000 sheets and 418 rolls of plastic. Within two days of the hurricane, the first Hercules left CFB Trenton. This flight was followed by further Hercules flights and one by a USAF C-5 Galaxy. The flights carried food, clothing and even hydro trucks.

The initial CF personnel on the ground conducted damage assessments, creating a list of what aid was required. Military engineers from 1 Construction Engineering Unit were asked to reconstruct the water and power systems in the central part of the island. The first task was clearing the roads and power lines of all the fallen trees.

Personnel from 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, assisted by other specialists, set about restoring the water system. One group deployed to the village of Duckenfield Hall at the eastern end of the island, chlorinated the water from wells, and delivered it in trucks to surrounding villages. The second team went to Black River on the western end of the island and drew water from a river, purified it and then distributed it.

The Mobile Repair Team (MRT) at CFB Trenton was also involved in the reconstruction efforts. At the request of the Canadian International Development Agency, the MRT provided a generator for a dairy on the island, allowing it to provide fresh, pasteurized milk. They also repaired and replace power lines to farm houses, wells and refrigeration equipment and even rounded up and fenced in stray cattle.

At least 30 CF personnel participated in rebuilding infrastructure on the island, while crews from 436 Squadron participated in the airlift. The main CF effort lasted until early October, with the last individual in mid-October.

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