Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019
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On Abaco, some feel abandoned by govt

Marsh Harbour, Abaco, one month after Category 5 Hurricane Dorian tore through the island. PHOTOS: TRAVIS CARTWRIGHT-CARROLL

Mark Roberts, 57, of Man-O-War Cay, Abaco, said yesterday that he feels abandoned by the government in the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian.

“We [are] trying to survive, but the government has abandoned us,” Roberts told The Nassau Guardian.

“From day one, after the hurricane, there were 25 yachts in Florida ready to bring stuff.

“They were told that they had to bring it to [New Providence] to give it to NEMA or pay duty. The only way the people of this cay are surviving is because of these good-hearted people.”

Roberts, an electrical plumbing contractor, claimed that the government has yet to send “one official, one drop of water or one grain of rice to Man-O-War Cay”.

“If we haven’t been abandoned, I don’t know what to call it,” he said.

“We live day to day. We’re survivors. It’s the only way.”

As of Wednesday, the government has resumed charging duty to send items like food and water to hurricane impacted islands, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said.

“My God, what are the two essentials you need to live?” Roberts asked.

“Nobody has money. Nobody has work. It’s been seven weeks, and there’s nowhere to get any money if you have it because there’s no banks open. How do they expect the poor people or any person to get by?

“There’s one class of people in Abaco now. There’s no rich, no lower class.

“There’s just one class – survivor.”

Roberts said while people suffer, some are playing politics with their lives.

He said there should be no red tape for individuals or organizations that genuinely want to assist those on the island.

Since the storm passed, Roberts said, he has been providing potable water for about 12 to 15 families in his community.

“I run my generator for people to drink, to bathe and to basically live,” he said, which costs him about $35 a day in gas.

Teron Bowleg, of Dundas Town, works 12 hours a day at Leonard M. Thompson International Airport in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.

While Cherokee Air, the airline he works for, offers accommodations in Marsh Harbour for its employees, Bowleg said he’s still sleeping in the ruins of his Dundas Town home to protect the little possessions he has left from looters.

Bowleg offloads hurricane relief supplies from international agencies.

It’s tough work for the 42-year-old, but he said yesterday that he’s happy to have work.

“It’s been rough. It’s not easy to be wiping off every day, and scrapping to find food to eat,” he told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.

“I haven’t really seen the government do anything so far. I heard they want to do things, but I haven’t seen it happen as yet and right now it’s been over a month.”

Many residents on Abaco have expressed frustration with the pace at which the government is moving to restore, clean up and rebuild Abaco.

“Right now, I’m mentally tired. I’m mentally tired,” Bowleg said.

“I’m really tired and it’s a struggle. It’s a struggle every day.”

Bowleg said he chooses to endure these conditions to be able to provide for his wife and children, who are in the process of trying to find reasonable living accommodations on New Providence.

“From working out to the airport, all I see is [Team] Rubicon or some other private [organizations] helping out,” he said.

“Thank God for them because they’re helping a lot. They’re helping to clean up and do other little stuff, and I appreciate them doing that because right now they’re the only set helping from what I can see.”

During the storm, he said, his roof was compromised and his windows and doors were blown out, causing water to rush through the ground floor of the home.

“We had to come out the house, and try [to] go to my cousin’s house,” Bowleg said.

“At that time, the eye was passing over us, and it was a rush for us to get there before the eye passed over.”

He recalled plywood and other debris being flung across the community from Dorian’s 185-mile-per-hour winds during their transit.

However, apart from his traumatic experience, Bowleg said he’s grateful to be alive.

He added that he hasn’t been able to repair the damage to his home as yet because his father, who is a contractor, left the island to come to New Providence.

“My story is probably a joke compared to other people, but I still thank God for life,” he said.

“I’m still alive, and I’m still holding on. It’s not been easy, but I’m still trying to survive.”

While life has been a constant struggle lately, Bowleg said that he is fortunate enough to take a few days off every two weeks to travel and meet with his family for a few days on New Providence to ease his mind.

Javaris McIntosh, 41, of Central Pines, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, said it’s easy to get food and water from international organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, but there has been no help with building supplies thus far.

He said the front of his roof was damaged in the storm, causing severe water damage inside his home.

McIntosh said he spends his nights at Bahamas Power and Light’s Wilson City power station, where he works as a cable jointer.

His family left for New Providence to stay with his brother.

“Personally, I feel that they can do a lot more, you know,” he said of the government.

“You have stuff coming in, but you’re just not seeing where they’re going, or you’re hearing of a lot of stuff [is] coming in, stuff like building materials, plywood, sheetrock, etc.

“Those stuff should’ve, you know, been in and distributed so persons could start rebuilding their homes so that they won’t have the headache of living in [New Providence] and trying to find places there. Once you get your roof on, that’s a step closer to moving back into your home.”

Like the others, he too said life on Abaco has been hard since the storm, especially since he is away from his family.

He doesn’t anticipate his family returning to the island for at least a year, especially since some schools remain closed, he said.

Until then, he said, he is determined to provide for his family and to rebuild his home.

Hurricane Dorian destroyed most of the homes and businesses in Marsh Harbour and other parts of Abaco when it made landfall last month.

At least 65 people have been confirmed dead and some 280 people are listed as missing.

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