The Minnis administration’s response to Hurricane Dorian has been “erratic, rudderless and disastrous,” Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis charged yesterday.
Hurricane Dorian slammed into Abaco and Grand Bahama as a Category 5 storm in early September, devastating portions of those islands.
It killed at least 61 people and some 400 people are listed as missing.
“I hear from many quarters that we should not be critical of the efforts of the government, but given the obvious fumbling of the ball and the fact that the conduct of the government is affecting the lives of thousands of men, women and children, I am compelled to say something by way of constructive criticism,” Davis said during debate on the Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
“We read in the good book these words: I tell you… if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.
“And so, I believe that I have every right to speak out on behalf of the Bahamian people over the manner in which the government has prosecuted the handling of Hurricane Dorian.
“Indeed, the response of the government has taken on the semblance of the characteristic of Hurricane Dorian: it has been slow; it was erratic, rudderless and it has been disastrous.”
Davis claimed the government “failed miserably” during its pre-hurricane preparedness, its communication during the hurricane and its post-hurricane recovery and restoration.
He said Bahamasair “was not pressed into an evacuation until after the passage of the storm”.
Before the passage of Dorian, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis called for an emergency evacuation of Abaco’s cays and portions of Grand Bahama.
Unlike during Hurricane Irma in 2017, Minnis did not send Bahamasair to those islands to evacuate residents to New Providence.
Days after the storm, Minnis said the government was offering flights to New Providence for Abaco residents free of charge.
Davis continued, “Some of the shelters allocated to house persons seeking shelter were the same shelters that flooded during Matthew.
“That was a cause for concern for us. Additionally, the Rand Memorial Hospital flooded during Matthew, but no effort was apparently made to evacuate patients prior to Dorian’s landfall.
“Several RORO vessels attached to the RBDF were shipped out to safety prior to the storm but were unresourced. This meant loss of precious time and lives because the vessels would have to return to the Coral Harbour base to be resourced before being dispatched to Abaco and Grand Bahama.”
Davis also hit out at the government over the Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill, 2019, as nothing but a public relations effort.
The bill will authorize the government to impose a mandatory evacuation of any person from any specified area, impose curfews and prohibit travel in areas declared mandatory evacuation zones.
“Regarding the bill before us today, I really did not want to jump to conclusions, but this bill smacks of a PR effort to counter the local and international negative commentary about the government’s incompetence surrounding its handling of the Dorian matter,” Davis said.
“The bill seems to include a compendium of best ideas coming from a group chat either in Cabinet or at a stew fish gathering by a breakfast bunch.
“Obviously, there are good elements but, Mr. Speaker, those are already in place in law.”
He said the opposition will not support the bill.