The devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian is coming into terrible focus.
Lives and livelihoods have been dramatically altered forever.
Thirty deaths have been confirmed by the government, but we know that the number of people killed by the storm is much higher.
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday the final death toll will be “staggering”.
Fortunately, we have friends.
Immediate emergency assistance sprang from the United States Coast Guard and the U.S. AID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.
U.S. Coast Guard helicopters have been continually engaged in medevacing the most seriously injured and ill from Abaco to Nassau during the past several days and in providing on-the-ground medical assistance.
Brave residents in Grand Bahama faced hurricane force winds to rescue family, friends and strangers from flooded homes by way of jet ski, Mack truck and payloaders.
The British Navy ship RFA Mounts Bay has arrived in The Bahamas. Jamaica is sending troops to assist with security in the affected areas. The secretary general of CARICOM and the prime ministers of Barbados and St. Lucia were in The Bahamas yesterday demonstrating the camaraderie of the Caribbean region. And, generous pledges of financial support have been received from Canada, from several of the cruise lines which call at our ports and from corporate and private citizens.
What sounds to be a flotilla of assistance is also being assembled in South Florida as the City of Miami, numerous local civic groups and charities and generous individual friends of The Bahamas collect and package emergency supplies for delivery to the impacted residents in Abaco and Grand Bahama. The friendship of Florida to The Bahamas cannot be overstated.
Similar efforts have been mounted by local civic groups and charities and by family and friends of residents in the affected islands who have thousands of pounds of relief goods staged for delivery as soon as permitted by the government.
What is urgent is for the Bahamian government to ensure our ability to accept with speed and efficiency the enormous assistance being offered and to expeditiously arrange for its seamless delivery to affected people along the length and breadth of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
It is critically urgent with regard to international assistance that the Department of Customs substantially increase its presence in the affected islands, including creating sufferance ports, for specified limited periods, at individually affected cays: Grand Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Guana Cay, Elbow Cay and Man-O-War Cay, Cherokee Sound and Moore’s Island, which would facilitate relief and reconstruction materials entering those communities directly.
Also critical is immediate action to fix the communications problems which have hampered coordination, delaying relief to many still-stranded citizens. We understand that much of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company’s infrastructure has been damaged in Abaco and Grand Bahama. We suggest that the Utilities Regulation & Competition Authority cause an immediate accommodation to be made by Aliv/Cable Bahamas to maximize communication amongst subscribers.
Improved communications will go a long way to ending the exaggerated, if not fictitious accounts of looting or robberies particularly in Marsh Harbour.
It is critical and urgent for the government to do the necessary to get generators, fuel, tarpaulin temporary shelters, whether tents or trailers, and water filtration and purification systems into the hardest hit areas.
There are numerous credible complaints of the failure of the authorities to authorize the delivery of these items to communities in Abaco where no one from the Central government has yet to visit.
Quick and efficient approval of air and sea craft seeking to make delivery of emergency supplies, water, food and temporary shelter is urgently needed!