300 Bahamian storm victims still in Florida

More than 300 storm victims are still living in Florida nearly three months after Hurricane Dorian.

Some evacuees have expressed no desire to return to Abaco following Dorian’s destruction, according to Rosie Gomez, president of the National Association of The Bahamas (NAB).

“For the most part, they feel that, particularly those from Abaco, that there’s nothing to go back to,” Gomez said.

“We try to encourage them to come back home because we have heard that the prime minister has offered them transportation back and also assistance when they get back. But, for the most part, especially those who’ve lost everything, they don’t feel that there.”

However, Ian Knowles, 19, said that is not the case for him.

He moved to Riviera Beach, Florida, in late September.

Roughly two weeks before, he said, he was praying he and his loved ones would not die as Dorian – the strongest hurricane on record to hit The Bahamas – ravaged Abaco and its cays.

Knowles is preparing to return to Marsh Harbour, which was one of the worst-hit areas.

“I come back to Abaco in a day or two, fortunately,” he said.

Asked why he was returning, Knowles said, “To clean up my family home and get some work. Like I said before we were counting on Temporary Protected Status but it wasn’t requested by the government.”

He said he doesn’t know what he will do for work on Abaco. 

When asked how he intends to survive on the island, Knowles said, “Fortunately, there is a relief center over here that covers the essentials.”

He added, “I know it’ll be challenging but eventually everything will be back to normal; only real pain is time.”

Crystal Williams, 37, a Dundas Town resident, is also optimistic about post-Dorian life on Abaco.

She said she is fixing her apartments so she can rent them.

“I’m also a taxi driver,” Williams said.

“I’m contracted with the Abaco Club on Winding Bay and a lot of my clients are still coming down so a new vehicle is needed and it’s business as usual.” 

She said she plans to dip into her savings to purchase the car.

Williams said she has been back and forth between Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Dundas Town since the storm hit in early September.

Roughly two weeks after Dorian, Williams’ two children began attending school in the United States.

Speaking about the separation from her children, she said, “I feel heartbroken but I know I have a mission.” 

Williams continued, “The mission is to get my life back to normal…to put my kids under our own roof again.” 

Dorian impacted 29,472 people, killed at least 69 and injured more than 200.

As of October 18, there were 282 individuals still missing.

Last month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis urged Bahamians who sought refuge in the United States following Hurricane Dorian to return to The Bahamas to help rebuild impacted islands.

“If they’re from Abaco, they will be accommodated in the Family Relief Center that we’re constructing and similarly in Grand Bahama,” he said.

“But accommodations are being made for them to return home because they’re needed to help rebuild our Bahamas.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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