Today is the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Dorian’s entrance into The Bahamas at Hope Town, Abaco.
When it, two days later, left Grand Bahama, it left swaths of the principal islands of the northern Bahamas, Abaco and Grand Bahama, almost unrecognizable.
The horror was unprecedented; no superlatives needed.
Suddenly the clichéd expression, “there are no words”, exactly encapsulated our reaction.
No one was prepared for the scale of damage and the astonishing, unprecedented loss of life.
In our collective memory, the number of people who perished in a storm in The Bahamas was typically counted on a single hand.
Dorian’s death toll was certified as high double digits, but six months later, without locating all of its missing, burying all its dead, clearing away its debris, let alone restoring damaged and destroyed infrastructure, private properties and countless livelihoods, a new horror was visited on The Bahamas; the novel coronavirus and its associated killer disease, COVID-19.
Without the yeoman effort and generosity of foreign donors and multiple American and other international NGOs, affected communities could scarcely have survived.
They brought emergency supplies of food, water and medicine, ran government clinics in Abaco and constructed a temporary hospital in Grand Bahama. Then, they brought building supplies and helped repair private homes and government schools.
A recounting of the onslaught of COVID-19 over the past six months coupled with the Dorian saga reads like a bad movie script disregarded because the storyline defies belief.
We believe that the government’s marshalling of the country’s resources in responding to both hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic have been poorly managed.
The minister of education informed the nation yesterday that all schools in the country will reopen on October 5.
He said that some $12.6 million had been expended on the repairs to schools in Abaco where schools have been closed since Hurricane Dorian.
We understand that repairs to government schools in Cooper’s Town, Green Turtle Cay, Guana Cay, Man-O-War Cay and Abaco Central Primary were all funded by NGOs. The Treasure Cay Primary School has not been repaired or rebuilt.
Reportedly, a foreign donor pledged $1 million toward the restoration of the school in Hope Town on the condition that the remaining $750,000 required for the project is raised.
Hence, we were surprised by the minister’s failure to even acknowledge the contributions to school repairs by donors, much less to express the appreciation of the government on behalf of Abaco residents.
Meantime, Abaco’s capital, Marsh Harbour, remains a shadow of its former self with inadequate electrical service and spotty communications. The terminal at the Leonard Thompson International Airport still leaks and the demolished terminal at the Treasure Cay airport has not been replaced.
The government’s administrative building in Central Abaco also leaks and its carpets, wet since the storm, reek.
And life on the Abaco Cays is becoming increasingly tenuous with unreliable public utilities on some and reports of nightly house robberies, widespread theft of building materials meant for repair and reconstruction of private homes, and scant response to requests for assistance from the Ministry of National Security. Some cays report no police presence.
Grand Bahama, site of the principal industrial and manufacturing sectors of the country, does not have a functional international airport. Its terminal, destroyed in the storm, has not been replaced. And the government’s interest in its acquisition appears to have waned.
Meanwhile, residents in east Grand Bahama have no electricity.
One year later, life remains exceedingly difficult for Dorian’s victims.