Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said last night that the government is “aggressively shredding” the red tape for those seeking to get aid into Grand Bahama and Abaco in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which smashed portions of both islands last week.
“The outpouring of aid and generosity from thousands of Bahamians and others overseas has been extraordinary,” Minnis said in a national address.
“There have been problems in the coordination of this aid due to the magnitude of this devastation. I understand the deep frustration of those who have had to deal with bureaucratic roadblocks.
“We are aggressively shredding the red tape that is frustrating many who want to help.
“We are fixing these problems and bringing in extra personnel and capacity to direct the aid from private citizens, corporate donors, international agencies and foreign governments.”
It has been over a week since Dorian made landfall on Abaco and later Grand Bahama as a Category 5 storm, packing winds up to 220 miles per hour and storm surges as high as 20 feet.
Marsh Harbour was decimated. East Grand Bahama was laid to waste. Both islands appeared as if they had been bombed.
Minnis said as a part of recovery efforts, he appointed Permanent Secretary Jack Thompson and former Chairman of the National Insurance Board Algernon Cargill to head the hurricane relief and redevelopment efforts on Abaco.
He said Senate President Kay Forbes Smith will lead the effort on Grand Bahama.
Minnis said he met with members of the Bahamas Christian Council and asked them to plan a national prayer service and a day of mourning.
“There are many who are still missing,” Minnis said.
Roughly 2,500 people are registered as missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, according to National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Spokesperson Carl Smith.
However, Smith said the government’s list has not been checked against the lists of evacuees and people staying in shelters on New Providence.
Minnis continued, “The grief we will bear as a country begins with the families who have lost loved ones.
“To those who have lost loved ones, I know that there is absolutely nothing we can say that will lessen your pain and your loss.
“We will provide accurate, timely information in the loss of life as it is available.
“We will first and foremost put the priority on notifying families and giving them the help they need to grieve.”
Minnis did not update the death count. He reaffirmed that as of September 9, 2019, 50 people were confirmed dead as a result of the storm.
“No living Bahamian has ever seen anything like this in their lifetime,” he said.
“But as horrible and vicious as Hurricane Dorian was, the bravery and resilience of the Bahamian people is even more powerful.”
The prime minister called on Bahamians to focus their energy to more positive efforts.
“Instead of criticizing those who are trying their best in government and charities, churches and volunteer efforts, let us all join hands and hearts to focus on the needs of those who are suffering,” he said.
“Those whose lives are devastated need hope, love and generosity, not needless negativity.
“This is a time for national action by all Bahamians of goodwill.”
The prime minister thanked those on Grand Bahama who risked their lives to save residents who were trapped in their homes during the storm.
He also praised the support from the international community, including CARICOM countries that have sent security forces, food and water.
Minnis also thanked U.S. President Donald Trump, the British, Canada and other countries.
“Donald Trump has proven to be a true friend to The Bahamas during this dark hour,” he said, noting that dozens of U.S. entities are on the ground assisting with recovery efforts, including the FBI.
The UN secretary general will visit The Bahamas on Friday, the prime minister noted.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English