Ironman World Champion Competitors’ Country Devastated by Hurricane Irma

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Editing: Sarah Woodward and Lily Khuu

Triathlete Cayley Mackay and her girlfriend Nicole Erato were in the middle of the Ironman 70.3 World Championships when they learned that their entire country, the island of Saint Maarten/Saint Martin, was destroyed by the eye of Category 5+ Hurricane Irma.  Cayley shared her experience with us and different ways in which we can help.

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AfterEllen: Where is your home located and what category level was Hurricane Irma when it hit your house?

Cayley Mackay: My home is located on the beautiful Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma was a level 5+ as they were experiencing winds and conditions much worse than a typical Category 5. It was largest hurricane in history in the Atlantic and according to the New York Times “has broken records for accumulated cyclone energy, a measure that combines storm strength and duration”. The eye hit Sint Maarten and was so large that satellite imagery shower the entire island in the eye of Irma.

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AfterEllen: What did you return to when you got back?

Cayley Mackay: There is no power. No water. No hospital. No airport. No nothing. My girlfriend Nicole and I were away representing Sint Maarten at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships when the hurricane hit. We did not hear from our family for over 48 hours. We are not able to return to the island yet as there are no flights, at this point it is only evacuation flights allowed to enter and that is recent.

Sint Maarten Before Hurricane Irma

Sint Maarten Before Hurricane Irma

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Sint Maarten After Hurricane Irma

AfterEllen: How many others are going through this on your Island?

Cayley Mackay: The island is 37.2 square miles and is divided between Dutch (Sint Maarten) and French (Saint Martin). The population of the entire island is around 100,000 people and every single person has been affected. Most of our friends and family have lost their homes, lost their businesses, lost everything. If you still have a roof over your head (literally because thousands of roofs were ripped off) you are considered to be very lucky right now. There are dozens of deaths and we still have friends who are unaccounted for.

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AfterEllen: What are you and others doing to cope with the devastation?

Cayley Mackay: Nicole and I are doing everything in our power to get the word out that SXM needs international aid. We have been fundraising for the island (www.rebuildsxm.com) and also four ourselves as we have also suffered extensive damage (www.gofundme.com/nicoleandcayley). We have also been helping to evacuate as many people and animals as possible. Yesterday we were able to arrange for the evacuation of Nicole’s very ill grandmother to a hospital in Aruba as well as her grandfather and goddaughter.

Those at home have been trying to survive. People have been running out of water and food. Saturday, Sept. 9, they were under hurricane warning from Hurricane Jose so people were trying to find safe places to stay that had not already been destroyed by Irma. It is definitely survival mode. But the people of Sint Maarten/Saint Martin are resilient. They are helping each other in as many ways as possible, sharing food and water and providing shelter when they can. Of course there are also those who are taking advantage of the situation and there has been wide spread looting and crime however most are doing their best to help. The spirit I have seen from home is unmatched.

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AfterEllen: How can those reading this article help?

Cayley Mackay: The biggest thing right now is to spread the word. Irma has destroyed so many. Most recently it has affected Florida and most of the big news stations are turning away from showing the damage and destruction on the islands to show Florida. Please don’t forget about us! We are an isolated island and will not be able to rebuild on our own. We need the world to know how much help we need so the first thing people can do is help us to spread the word. The second thing is to donate. Money donations can be sent to www.rebuildsxm.com and care packages are being put together throughout the world to send. Nicole and I are only one of tens of thousands who have been affected and we still do not know the full report of damage but we do know that it is extensive. If you are interested in donating to us personally you can do so at www.gofundme.com/nicoleandcayley.

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AfterEllen: Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Cayley Mackay: The world lost contact with Sint Maarten around 6:30am on Wednesday September 6th when the eye hit. The last thing we heard was Nicole’s mom screaming at her dad to get back because he was trying to hold the doors shut and her grandmother crying and screaming that the roof was coming off. Her uncles roof has already come off. We then waited over 48 hours in a numb state waiting to hear if they had survived. Our story is normal. The destruction is unimaginable. Lives have been changed forever. We need help. The island needs help. Please don’t forget about us.

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AfterEllen will be holding a fundraiser to help raise money for disaster relief organizations next week during our 15-Year Anniversary Celebration.  You can help hurricane victims like Cayley Mackay by purchasing a ticket to attend the benefit or by donating directly HERE.
Tickets and options to donate are located at tiny url.com/AfterEllenParty

Tickets and options to donate are located at www.tinyurl.com/AfterEllenParty

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