Monday, Oct 14, 2019

‘Come back’

Michael Dillon.

Michael Dillon, 56, wants Abaconians to come back home.

“We need to restart our community,” he told The Nassau Guardian.

“We need to restart our economy.”

Dillon, a South Floridan who moved to Abaco seven years ago, rode out Hurricane Dorian like thousands of other Abaconians.

It was “excruciating and frighteningly loud”, he recalled.

Last Tuesday, Dillon, along with several other Abaco residents who survived Dorian, met up at a home in Pelican Shores.

A group of them were working on setting up a few solar panels to run a refrigerator. Others were pouring cups of Diplomatico rum blended with a few shots of water and smoking either cigarettes or cigars.

A Local 10 News crew out of Florida was across the street doing a live drop in front of a home in ruins.

Two dogs roamed the area for a while, excited by all of the people.

Dillon was in the thick of it all.

Marsh Harbour, Abaco, one month after Hurricane Dorian pummeled the tiny island. PHOTOS: TRAVIS CARTWRIGHT-CARROLL

It was nearly 6 p.m. and there was no clear sign that the meeting was ever going to happen.

When asked what he thought was next for Abaco, Dillon responded, “We need to start turning the wheels.”

“If you have businesses here on Abaco that were essential services – a company that makes water, a company that handles customs and duty clearing, things like that – we need those people to start coming back home.

“Everyone is here. We are all still here on the island.

“We can help you get your home dry and safe.

“We have outside resources that are in here helping. The Jamaican defense force has been amazing in helping to rebuild roofs. We can help you get your house dry. It’s not going to be the best. You don’t have water. You don’t have electricity, but we can get you a generator and we can get you a source of water – both drinking and bathwater.

“Bring your business back here so we can start turning the wheels again.”

Hurricane Dorian tore through Abaco, leveling almost everything in its path last month.

In Marsh Harbour, there are no more banks, food stores or restaurants. There was only one fueling station with one pump that sold gas for $5.50 per gallon.

“The whole economy, the town, is destroyed,” Dillon said.

“It’s not damaged. It’s destroyed.”

But he’s confident that the island can rebound.

Dillon, along with other residents, are organizing relief from donors in the U.S.

“We have a community,” he said.

“There used to be over 3,000 people that lived over here. Now there are about 18 or 20 of us left.

“Every day all we do is work together to collect our resources. When you wake up in the morning the first thing you think about is fuel and water.

“Do I have enough water to get through? Do I have enough fuel to get through?

“We have generators running. We are fortunate enough to have a refrigerator. I want to keep my generator running to keep my refrigerator cold so we can keep some meats, some protein.

“So, every day we work together to organize provisions coming in and supplies coming in from the States.

“I work with a bunch of people here to organize [aid]. What’re their needs? Then I go to donors in the States to say this is what we need and then we find boats that want to bring it over or planes that we load up and we bring stuff over.

“That’s been life since the hurricane.”

In Pelican Shores, an area that many locals call the Eastern Road of Abaco, Dorian’s wrath is just as visible. Residents said when Dorian pounded Abaco, tornadoes touched down in that community. Some houses are destroyed while others have minor damage.

Floyd Sawyer, 70, a retired contractor, said he feels abandoned by the Minnis administration.

“The only people who are helping are the Jamaican crew, the defense force out of Jamaica, and the Americans,” he said outside his son’s Pelican Shores home.

“That’s it. The Bahamians? Nothing. They aren’t helping the people. This is the fourth week now. We haven’t seen no supplies come through from the government to try to help people to put their places back together or anything.

“The government is going to suffer for it because we were a big portion of income to the government in Nassau.”

Sawyer said he believes more can be done to help those who survived Dorian on Abaco.

“They are four weeks into things,” he said.

“Generally, a prime minister or person in government would take two, three days after the hurricane to see what they could do for the people. Nothing.

“Oh, they extended the duty-free for three years. Big deal. The [value-added tax] is 12 percent on top of that.

“There’s no [such thing] as free in The Bahamas. Here it is people are having trouble getting gas and diesel and we still have to pay $5.50 for gas. Take the money off of the diesel and the gas so that people could afford to do some work or something around the place.”

When Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis visited Abaco last Wednesday, The Nassau Guardian asked him about concerns that his government is “dragging its feet”.

“I think initially we were more concerned with security and supplies, food, etc.,” Minnis said.

He added, “It is not a matter of moving slow. We have been hit with something that has never been seen before.

“As we move we are writing the history book. Others will look at how we manage it, how it was planned and they will learn from what we do.”

Dillon agreed to some extent.

“There hasn’t been any Bahamian government assistance at all,” he said.

“But let’s be completely honest, what government is prepared to handle a Category 5 storm where you have a whole economy worth over a couple hundred million dollars erased overnight?

“Not too many. Not even the U.S.”

Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Assistant Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English

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