Minister of National Security Marvin Dames yesterday defended a difference in official Hurricane Dorian missing person figures, noting that the figures continue to fluctuate because “we have numbers all over the place”.
In the 2020 policing plan, which was tabled in the House of Assembly last week, the number of people missing in the wake of Dorian was listed as 54.
Three weeks earlier, Dames noted that 279 people were missing following the storm. The policing plan was submitted to Dames earlier this year.
When asked about the difference in figures yesterday, the minister replied, “The numbers are going to continue to fluctuate. They will continue to change. There are different variables impacting on this.”
He would not indicate what those variables were.
Dames continued, “That is the nature of managing in a crisis, OK? I can’t say it differently than that.
“We had an expert who went all around the world and commended this country. But yet, we continue to get the same questions from individuals about, ‘Why is this number is this way? Why this number is [that] way?’
“If you’re suggesting that something is amiss, then I’m going to say this to you and that will be my final response. Those men and women out there are doing their utmost to bring some order to what was a very chaotic and very difficult situation for many family members and I’m going to respect those families who still have love ones out there.
“We know who they are and we continue to work with them. I will not go along this path of making this difficult for them. That is all I have to say. I’m done.”
Dames said the Royal Bahamas Police Force had to bring “all of that information together”.
He said a team of police officers was tasked with investigating missing Dorian victims, adding that they are still “working it by the way”.
“I can’t keep fighting over the fluctuation of numbers because the numbers will continue to fluctuate,” he said.
“Trust me, that’s how these events work. I can give you a number today and tomorrow somebody could give you another number.”
Dorian ravaged Abaco and Grand Bahama more than ten months ago, displacing thousands of people.
In January, then-Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said 54 people were missing in the wake of the storm.
At a press conference held by the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) in May, Assistant Commissioner of Police Solomon Cash reported that only 33 people were listed as missing.
Last month, former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said thousands of names of people reported missing immediately after Dorian were removed from the official list after police took responsibility for that aspect of the storm’s aftermath, noting that no explanation was ever given for why the list was “pruned”.
Dames later shot that down.
“At no time was any attempt made by the police or anyone else to delete any names off the list without first performing due diligence. If the former minister or anyone else has information to prove otherwise, the ministry requests that it be made public for all to see,” he said.