Two years after Hurricane Irma devastated Ragged Island, the southern island remains in shambles, its Member of Parliament Chester Cooper yesterday lamented as he called on the government to provide the same concessions it has put in place for Grand Bahama and Abaco for his constituents.
“Extend the concessions to Ragged Island that you have now extended to Freeport, they are Bahamians too,” Cooper said in the House of Assembly yesterday.
When Hurricane Irma hit the southern Bahamas in September 2017 with winds up to 185 miles per hour, it reduced much of Ragged Island to rubble. The damage was so excessive the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) deemed the island uninhabitable.
“Given the lack of progress in Ragged Island two years later, given the depth of the neglect and disregard shown to Ragged Island, it is fair to say I am deeply concerned for the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama,” Cooper said.
“I’ve seen an episode of this movie before and it’s when the cameras leave the scene that the struggle truly becomes real. I can report to you with certainty that the people of Ragged Island have lost faith in their own government.”
In May, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that the government would invest $8 million to restore public infrastructure on Ragged Island.
Cooper said no movement has been made on the island since.
“On Ragged Island, there is no nurse, no clinic, no school, no teachers, no police, no police station, no postal service, no post office, no government services, no administration building, no solarization, no information on Salt Energy LLC, the company that was awarded a contract for the solar plant, that they definitely don’t see,” he said.
“Families remain separated. Children miss their fathers. Wives take the slow-moving mailboat to periodically visit their husbands, who still must make a living to feed their family in the fishing industry.
“But I want to tell this government that it’s not too late to apologize. It’s not too late to apologize to those you abandoned and appear to have forgotten. But if you do apologize, do us a favor and don’t go down there with your hand swinging. You can also take them, or you can bring it here, a full accounting of donations provided to NEMA, for the benefit of Ragged Island. Or maybe bring the report here for the country to see. It’s good for the nation’s credibility.”
At last report, there were fewer than 60 people living on Ragged Island.