Crooked Island: paradise found pt. 2
Crooked Island is an incredibly picturesque island measuring approximately 18 miles long and six miles wide. As the tourist pamphlet says, if you are looking for nightlife and fancy eateries, you have most certainly come to the wrong place.
I have been told since Hurricane Joaquin the population is slightly over 200, as some people did not return after the devastating effects of the storm. I have heard some horrific stories of residents enduring the full blunt of the 2015 Category 4 hurricane that battered the island for over 36 hours.
One of the most horrific stories shared with me was of a family of six forced to flee their home and spend over 30 hours in a pickup truck weathering the storm; another lady was stuck in her car for 20 hours with water up to her chin, any higher and she would have certainly drowned.
And finally a family, including young children also fleeing their homes as water gushed through windows, had to take refuge in a small boat close to the house, where they were pelted with rain and seawater for the duration of the storm. The father told me that his daughter is so traumatised by this event, every time the subject of the storm comes up she cries.
Despite this devastation, with water rising over 18 feet, washed out roads and buildings with all the roofs missing, these hardy folks hung in there with electricity not being restored for well over three months.
A strong community bonded together and families and neighbors were forced to co-exist with nowhere to refrigerate food. Once the food was cooked it was shared among themselves. One person cooked breakfast, another lunch and another cooked dinner; that’s how these residents were able to survive.
Now the island is coming back to life, most of the roads have been fixed and paved with new seawalls constructed, and life is almost back to normal.
The economy is in dire straits, with most people employed through government agencies, while others continue to seek out a living as fishermen and bonefishing guides. I am told that Crooked Island has perhaps some of the best bonefishing in The Bahamas, but getting the fishermen here is a challenge as there is no direct airlift from the United States. People have to rely on Bahamasair’s limited flights twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Residents pay on average 30 percent to 50 percent more than Nassuvians for basic goods, including paying a startling $6.25 for a gallon of gas.
Transportation is vital on this island as there is no regular bus service. Fishermen making a living require gas for their boats; paying that hefty fee of $6.25 per gallon makes a major impact on their earnings.
This is a an issue that the government needs to take a very hard look at, not only for Crooked Island but particularly the lesser developed islands. It would be prudent to remove the tax on gasoline, which is killing them and the growth of the fishing industry. Instead let us empower these residents with the opportunity to develop some economic independence, perhaps even encouraging others to migrate to this southern island and consequently reduce the overcrowding in New Providence.
More on this next week.
• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation and two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association. William Wong is a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.