As storm victims from Grand Bahama and Abaco try to rebuild their lives weeks after Hurricane Dorian, the Colina Group of Companies hosted a post-storm advisory clinic on Saturday to better assist evacuees with their needs.
Alexiou Knowles & Co. partner Carlene Farquharson said that after the storm several individuals contacted the firm with regard to declarations of death and preparing affidavits for lost passports and other legal documents.
She said, “Our firm had a presence in Abaco and Grand Bahama, as well as Colina… So, we said, you know what? Instead of people coming to us, let’s take it to them. So, we decided to plan this event.”
Storm evacuees flocked to the Geoffrey Brown Auditorium at Queen’s College to listen to presentations on topics like handling probate and wills, coping with loss, replacing lost documents and filing life insurance claims.
Troy Mills, 59, was in attendance and described his storm experience as horrifying.
He recalls staying with his mother, sister and aunts during the storm in Dundas Town, Abaco, where he said they were all terrified.
While Dorian barreled through the island, Mills and his family lost the roof of their home.
The whole structure, he said, was compromised.
He said, “It felt as if we were having an earthquake in the middle of the storm. So, as usual, that is uncomfortable and horrifying.”
Moving forward, he said, he has focused his attention on the fact that he came out of the storm alive.
“The material things, I’ve not let become an issue because I feel like as long as I’m alive, and I’m in good health, I can regain all of that,” he said.
“So, the rebuilding or the moving forward process to me is easier than it’s going to be for a lot of other people because I’m not allowing myself to become depressed by what has happened. I’m grateful to God that I am still alive.”
Prior to the forum, he said, he was unaware that insurance companies were guided by the government as it pertains to declaring an individual dead.
Deandrea Lewis, Colina’s vice president of life operations, noted in her presentation that the current requirement is that someone is not declared dead until that individual has been missing for seven years.
However, Attorney General Carl Bethel said recently that interested parties will not have to wait seven years to receive death certificates for their relatives killed, or reported to have been killed, as a result of the storm.
Bethel said the law makes provisions for the coroner to issue death certificates in an expedited manner.
Linda Joseph, 46, said her home in Dundas Town was damaged as the hurricane dumped torrential rains and a powerful sea surge through her community.
She said she received a wealth of knowledge from one of the presentations on general insurance claims which, she said, clearly outlined the claims process for her.
Joseph said she lived in a low-lying area.
“It’s always flooded. Even if it’s raining, the water is always high. So, imagine for this hurricane,” she said.
She said she had to walk through high floodwaters to get to her home after the storm in an attempt to get dry clothing for her children.
Like many others, she described Hurricane Dorian as a traumatic experience.
Joseph said she spent the first half of the storm in her home with her four kids and her sister.
“When it first started, we [were] there and then we [noticed that it was] not going to be good. So, we pulled out. We just left the house with what we [had] on our backs,” she said.
“So, I just [had a] chance to get all of my documents because I always have them on the side whenever I have to leave my house.”
Joseph and her kids are now living in New Providence with her friend.
She said: “I don’t know what the next step is. It has been really hard and tough. I [have] never seen [anything like] that.”
Joseph said she worked as a housekeeper at Baker’s Bay, and added that it is not easy finding work in New Providence.
After job hunting for weeks, Joseph said she intends to return to Abaco to continue her search for work.
She said: “I’m a hardworking woman. I don’t like to sit around and see what people can do for me. I want to figure out what I can do for myself and my family because I’m a single mother.”
Farquharson said the firm intends to partner with the related companies for more information clinics similar to the one held on Saturday.