Monday, Nov 11, 2019

Forgotten

Mitchell Munroe, 3, is one of few children on Ragged Island, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma two years ago. The island’s only school, Duncan Town All Age School, was badly damaged. Some parents have sent their children to New Providence to school. PHOTOS: KYLE WALKINE

Atop a little hill in Duncan Town, Ragged Island, sits a classroom with damaged desks piled up, chairs thrown across the floor and a fan dangling from one portion of a roof left intact.

The classroom is a part of the Duncan Town All Age School where the windows of that building have been blown out and the abandoned structure looks like the scene from a movie.

Two years and one month since Hurricane Irma decimated tiny Ragged Island, leaving government buildings and homes destroyed, fewer than 40 people remain with the fear that more families will be separated due to a lack of basic necessities like a clinic, post office and a school.

Walking along a beaten path in Duncan Town holding his daughter’s hand on his right and his three-year-old nephew on his left was Craig Clover-Maycock, a fisherman.

He fought to avoid becoming emotional as he explained his fear of having to send his wife and four-year-old daughter to Nassau next September as she will turn five in July and must begin school.

The destroyed living quarters of the Ragged Island Police Station. There is no police officer on the island.

Clover-Maycock said it hurts his heart that in a few months his second child will have to relocate to the city in search of basic education, as his 15-year-old son moved to Nassau for high school not long after the storm.

“It’s just been hard, you know,” he told National Review as he sat on the porch of the nearby Anglican Church.

“My son is older so he had to go since after the storm to go to school and now she has to go next year.”

He then shook his head in apparent disbelief and said, “It feels bad. I can’t even think about that right now. I mean, I felt that when my son gone, but when it’s time for her that means my wife has to go as well. So, it will be just me.

“Most of the things, like the government stuff they don’t have up and running yet. It’s hard to send money or anything and the mailboat only comes like three times a month. No way to send money because there’s no post office or anything.”

During our interview, Clover-Maycock’s young nephew ran around and played in the road, oblivious to the everyday struggles his family endures to ensure there’s a roof over his head and food to eat.

Infrastructure

Throughout the island the devastation post-Irma is very real.

The pink government building, which once housed the administrator’s office and the post office, remains just how Irma left it with the roof sitting just as it collapsed on the floor of one side. On the other side of the building there is no roof, with busted windows and its contents thrown about.

In talking with those who have decided to stay and make the best of their situation, what is disappointing is the inaccessibility of key government infrastructure and services.

It was a concern for Rafael Wallace, a fisherman, who we met enjoying a cigarette on the wall across the street from his home.

When asked how things have been since the storm, he pointed to his surroundings with damaged buildings and said, “Just how it is now.”

He said, “From then ‘til now, we still struggling and trying to make life a bit easier. We try and help each other as much as we possibly could. I’d like to see them buildings fixed and all the government structures back up in operation, especially a nurse.

“Since the hurricane, we haven’t had a nurse here. So, if you get hurt you have to charter a plane and head back to Nassau. But you have to wait until someone gets here to get there.”

Shortly after the storm, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis declared the island “uninhabitable”.

Fortunately for the residents, there is now electricity.

Some residents, particularly women and children, moved to New Providence and other Family Islands where they began a new life.

Back in June, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister told Parliament that the cost to fix government buildings on Ragged Island would be $12 million.

He said the plan for Ragged Island included construction of a new school at $4 million, a new clinic at $3 million, an administrator’s office, post office and courtroom at $2 million and a new police station at $3 million.

Government has also promised to transform the island into the country’s first “green island” where solar power and renewable energy would be the order of the day.

Exumas and Ragged Island member of Parliament Chester Cooper pointed us to the island’s police station which remains untouched since the storm.

Scattered throughout the living quarters for officers were bedding, kitchen and office supplies and sheetrock, in addition to the damaged roof and busted windows and doors.

Piled on a mattress were two drawers, a chair, roof insulation and a torn Bahamian flag.

“Prior to the storm there may have been as many as five or six police officers here; however many the commissioner of police deemed necessary,” Cooper said.

“On one side of this building there was the residence for the police officer and on the other side there was the police station. It worked very well as needed because there’s really no crime here.

“Even before the hurricane his building was in need of dire repair, so I’m hoping government is able to do something, at least have a police presence on this island. I think the biggest risk here is not internal but external, whether it’s poachers or an immigration issue.”

Currently, there are several Royal Bahamas Defense Force officers on the island.

The mailboat is used as the main source of transportation to and from the island, particularly for those who cannot afford to charter a flight.

But for those who can, there is no airport. The one building that stood before Hurricane Irma was never rebuilt. The only thing left is the runway and a few chairs under a sea grape tree.

Survival

Mostly fishermen remain on the island, living in whatever is left of their homes to provide for their families.

Glen Munroe was hard at work, but still all smiles as he cleaned his crawfish tails for selling. He was happy to have his wife and two-year-old son return home since Irma.

“This is how we’ve been making it,” he said,

“This is how we’ve been surviving. The only thing we really want them [government] to do is to fix things for the children to come back. You know, the schools, clinic etc. It’s been two years now since we’ve had no school, clinic, no police. It’s been hard on the island. I mean if you get cut you can’t even call for emergency flight because a nurse has to clear it, you know.”

Up the road from him we found Louis Pintard, another fisherman. Three-quarters of the roof of his home is gone. Wire beams remain exposed through the pieces of gray tarp that was initially supposed to serve as temporary roofing.

“Since the storm, life has been rough,” he told National Review.

 “With my house, I lost just about everything. I’m here struggling, fishing and trying to get every dollar I can make. In a while, ain’t no one been here to do anything, no help at all. Everybody’s really just trying to do their best.”

On the island, there is no grocery store, no restaurant or any other modern business or facility. Residents now depend on family and friends to send supplies on the mailboat.

Driving along the road you won’t hear much; maybe the sound of a truck here or there and the bark of settlement dogs.

The Salvation Army is now working along with Cooper on floor plans for a complex that would serve as a temporary facility for a nurse and classroom space for students.

During a town hall meeting, where dozens of residents showed up, Cooper also announced that a nurse, with Ragged Island roots, has been identified.

Kyle Walkine

Senior Broadcast Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Kyle started with The Nassau Guardian in June 2014 as a broadcast reporter. He began anchoring the newscast four months later. Kyle began writing national news and feature stories in 2016. He covers a wide range of national stories. He previously worked as a reporter at Jones Communications.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Bachelor Media

Latest posts by Kyle Walkine (see all)

FOLLOW US ON:
Speaker attacks medi
A feeble rant from a