Hurricane Dorian evacuees who sought shelter in the government clinic on Abaco caused up to $2 million in damage to equipment, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday after he suggested that the majority of the many refugees came from The Mudd shantytown.
“During the hurricane, The Mudd was devastated,” he said in the House of Assembly.
“During the eye of the storm, hundreds of individuals fled from The Mudd into the government complex, Office of the Prime Minister, etc., inclusive of the clinic. There were hundreds of individuals seeking refuge and relief.”
He added, “I have been informed that the clinic was minimally damaged [but] structurally sound [and] stayed intact.
“But I have been informed that as a result of individuals seeking shelter in the clinic, they would have damaged up to $2 million in equipment, not the storm, the individuals who rushed and damaged some of our most vital instruments and equipment in the clinic to the tune of $2 million that has to be replaced.”
Abaco’s shantytowns have been a contentious issue for decades. In the aftermath of Dorian, which flattened many of the communities, the government announced that rebuilding in the shantytowns will not be allowed.
A week ago, Minnis announced that the government will acquire the land the communities were built on. Shortly after, images of bulldozed shantytowns began to circulate on social media.
Last year, the government gave residents of shantytowns on New Providence and Abaco deadlines to leave their homes in an effort to eradicate the communities. However, local human rights group Rights Bahamas obtained a Supreme Court injunction preventing the government from demolishing those homes. The court has yet to rule on the matter.
Minnis said yesterday that the law on the construction of unapproved buildings must be applied consistently.
“Just opposite my headquarters, a young man built a structure,” he said.
“He had a permit by law. That permit [was] to construct his building to two stories. He built three stories outside of the law. Two years later, Mr. Speaker, the law will not allow him to open his building. All of his life savings. He breached the law with one additional story, and the authorities forbid him from opening up and earning a living.”
Minnis added, “But others are able to build without any permit. What type of law do we have, Mr. Speaker?”