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‘Ragged Island still in ruins’

Exuma MP says govt not working fast enough to restore normalcy to storm-ravaged island
One of the many buildings on Ragged Island that sustained damage during the passage of Hurricane Irma. FILE

That there is no fully functioning water system, spotty electricity, no teacher, no police, no doctor and public buildings are still in ruins four months after Hurricane Irma barrelled through Ragged Island, is inexcusable, Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper fumed yesterday, as he described the Minnis administration’s yet-to-materialize plan to rebuild the community as “empty talk”.

Cooper’s comments came as he rejected an official of the Inter-American Development (IDB) Bank’s assertion that it doesn’t make sense to rebuild Ragged Island.

On Monday, Therese Turner-Jones, general manager for the IDB’s Country Department Caribbean group, said “it doesn’t make sense” to rebuild Ragged Island, because it would be too costly.

But in a statement, Cooper said, “With all due respect to the IDB, that academic assessment of Ragged Island is not something that the Bahamian people should at all take seriously.

“Further, the inalienable rights of the people of Ragged Island to live in their ancestral home are not something The Bahamas should entertain any compromise on.

“We will live where we have every legal right to be.

“Ragged Islanders have pledged to recover and rebuild on Ragged Island, no matter the length of time and effort it takes, and they have my full support in doing so.

“So that suggestion by the IDB is a non-starter, and it is encouraging that the minister of finance has dismissed it.”

Turner-Jones, who was speaking at an IDB press briefing said, “Next year, there is no guarantee that we won’t have another Hurricane Irma or Maria.”

She also explained that Caribbean islands like The Bahamas do not have unlimited resources, which makes it “difficult” to make these types of decisions.

Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest argued that the island should be rebuilt in a “smart and green way”.

Ragged Island was devastated after Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, hit the island back in September.

Public buildings, including the government school, clinic, administration complex, and several private businesses and homes either suffered major damage or were destroyed.

At the time, many described the island as an unlivable war zone, filled with debris from dislodged rocks, snapped utility poles and furniture from homes.

Green island

Cooper also lambasted the government over its “empty” promises for the island.

“… It is important to note that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ promise of rebuilding Ragged Island as a green island has, so far, amounted to nothing more than empty talk,” Cooper said.

“Ragged Islanders need basic services that all Bahamians are entitled to, to survive with dignity now.

“Though it is understandable that recovery takes time, it has been approximately four months since Hurricane Irma devastated Ragged Island, and government has done little to fulfill its commitments and get on with the rebuilding of Ragged Island.

“The Minnis administration needs to better articulate its green plan and put it in action.

“So far, all we’ve gotten is a catch phrase from the prime minister.

“What we need is action.”

In September, Minnis promised Ragged Islanders that the island will be rebuilt and transformed, and that the government would turn the small island into the first fully green island in the region.

Cooper also noted that while Royal Bahamas Defence Force personnel are on the island, it is “inexcusable in the interests of law and order and good governance” that no police are on the island.

“To date, there is still no nurse or doctor on Ragged Island, nor are there residences for them,” he said.

“By now, there ought to have been temporary accommodations. This basic need is not a luxury, it is a necessity to which all Bahamians are entitled to access.

“There is no teacher on Ragged Island, and the school remains destroyed without even temporary facilities for learning.

“Thankfully, Bahamas Power and Light has restored power to most of the overhead lines as before the storm.

“However, water services have not fully been restored.”

Cooper said public buildings on the island are in ruins.

“The salt pond, which was experiencing issues with the drain before the storm, is now more like a bay, disabling a much-needed revenue supply for Ragged Islanders,” he said.

“To date, the government has provided no assistance with building supplies whatsoever.

“Despite the minister of finance’s claim that government is exploring avenues for recovery, the recovery is not happening fast enough, and not being communicated to the stakeholders.

“The Minnis administration must do better, faster.

“Its current efforts are just not good enough.”

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