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Russell: Ragged Island still uninhabitable

The foundation is all that remains of this structure in Duncan Town, Ragged Island following the passage of Hurricane Irma last year. FILE

A year after Ragged Island was leveled by Hurricane Irma, the island in the southern Bahamas is still deemed uninhabitable, according to National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Director Captain Stephen Russell.

Russell made the statement during a press conference at NEMA’s headquarters on Gladstone Road yesterday.

He said he has had several meetings with the representatives of the Ragged Island Association, who have requested that the uninhabitable status be lifted.

“My response to them was we cannot unless the basic infrastructure is in place, key persons are in place,” Russell said.

“When I went there last they were asking how soon the doctor can come back with the nurse.

“In terms of a nurse and a doctor, your police, social services, school for the kids who are there, unless those basic institutions or structures are in place it’s hard for the government to sanction the place livable.”

Russell noted that a man was airlifted to New Providence after he was injured by a rusty nail.

The man is still recovering on New Providence, he said.

“Had a nurse or a doctor been on the island initially, it may have minimized the overall effect,” Russell opined.

He said the various agencies are “racing to see what they can do to restore the basic facilities needed”.

After the storm, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis declared the island unlivable, but vowed that it will be rebuilt.

Minnis promised Ragged Island will be a “green city”.

It will cost the government tens of millions of dollars to realize that vision, according to government officials.

There are reportedly fewer than 60 residents on Ragged Island.

On Monday, Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper once again accused the government of failing the people of Ragged Island, insisting that the island remains gutted a year later.

NEMA visited the island last month and conducted assessments.

As a result, 18 households were provided assistance and received a maximum of $4,000 per household.

Yesterday, Russell said NEMA has since provided assistance to an additional five people.

“I have had a number of persons who came into the office or have called into the office during the past two weeks, saying they were not assessed,” he said.

“It was unfortunate that they were not on the island at the time when we were there.

“We don’t necessarily go on the people’s property if they are not there, okay.”

However, he said those who have sought assistance will be vetted to confirm those households were owner-occupied at the time of the hurricane.

Russell said, “It is one thing to have a home on an island as your winter home or summer home, away from home, but the policy calls for owner-occupied property at the time of the event.

“Once we can verify that, that they evacuated from the island and never went back because nothing was there, we will find out how we can best assist them.

“Again, I have been in contact with officials from the Ministry of Works.

“They should have completed some drawing to replace the school, the police station, the administrator’s office as well as the clinic.

“Those four plans would have been completed for them.

“It is just a matter of being approved and funds [to] be directed to erect these facilities.

“Hopefully that can get started as early as next month once they go through the tendering process and the appropriate persons as selected to complete these projects.”

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