The population of Preston is swelling as people flee the Caribbean to escape the affects of Hurricane Irma.
Around 650 students, academics and support staff from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine have set up camp in the city after their own campus was devastated by the storms last month.
Preston-based University of Central Lancashire has links with the AUC through it’s medical school and offered to help after hearing that Irma had a devastating impact on Saint Maarten, the Dutch-French island where AUC’s students complete their first two years of pre-clinical medical school.
The students, and their families faced being disbanded all over the USA to finish their studies but plans are now being finalised to ensure the university can stay together, at least until the end of the year- an possibly until the academic year end.
In a bid to ensure their students can carry on with their with their studies, AUC is working with the UCLan, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) on plans to host the school for its autumn semester, pending necessary regulatory approvals.
The plan is for AUC to use UCLan’s academic facilities for teaching when they are not being used by their own students and at weekends.
The students and staff are being housed in numerous halls of residence and houses within the Preston City Centre.
The visiting students will be working to their regular curriculum on a modified schedule, ensuring the existing UCLan students’ timetables are unaffected.
The students will also have access to a range of UCLan facilities including the library, computing and pastoral care.
They will also become associate members of the Students’ Union.
The students are at various stages of their medical studies so clinical skills training will take place at associated NHS trust sites in East Lancashire.
UCLan Vice-chancellor Professor Mike Thomas said: “What’s happened to their island and the whole of the Caribbean is utterly devastating
“We pride ourselves on being a university that is always willing to help our community, be it local, regional, national or international.
“This situation is our chance to offer help to people whose lives have been turned upside down through a natural disaster.”
Rico Barronon, president of the AUC Student Governors’ Association, said: “We are all incredibly grateful to UCLan for welcoming us to Preston.
“The intention to move an entire medical school across the Atlantic in a matter of weeks is incredible and shows the resilience of AUC students who have been through a very traumatic time.
“We are looking at our time at UCLan as a new adventure and I am sure we will be well taken care of.”
Nate Minigh, Fourth Semester Class Representative for the AUC Student Governors’ Association, added: “As much as we prepared for the hurricane we hadn’t seen anything on this scale before and as soon as we saw the destruction we knew straight away that we wouldn’t be able to go back to campus.
“Everyone pulled together and the clinicians we had on site did an amazing job of setting up a triage centre to help as many people as possible.
“We’ve all been through a lot and we are looking forward to settling into life at UCLan and continuing our studies.
Extra if needed:
Kevin McGee, chief executive at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, which will be providing palcements said: “We already have a close working relationship with AUC and UCLan, and we’re delighted to be able to build on this to offer support and ensure that the AUC student cohort can complete their studies with the minimum of disruption.”
St Maarten is a small paradise island in the Caribbean some 1,200 miles south east of Miami, Florida and was almost flattened by Hurricane Irma, was closely followed by Hurricane Jose over the period of a week.
In the aftermath desperate residents forced to rely on aid handouts, but with supply lines down and infrastructure shattered, very little was getting through.
Thousands of homes across the island have been flattened, while luxury yachts moored in marinas were sunk or driven on shore by the 225 mph hurricane-force winds
The paradise island 1,200 miles south east of Miami, is split between the French section on the north, called St Martin and the Dutch administered area on the south, named St Maarten.
St Maarten is famous for its Princess Juliana International Airport because arriving aircraft pass at low level above the Maho beach.
Thrillseekers often stand behind the runaway and get blasted by the jet wash of aircraft preparing to take off.