Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson yesterday denied reports that hundreds of dead bodies have been recovered on Abaco and Grand Bahama in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
“I would really love to see those bodies,” Ferguson said when asked about the reports.
“I honestly would really love to see those bodies. If they are there, we will pick them up.”
He added, “I believe that if people see any bodies, I believe they will tell us and we will respond, but I have no information of people seeing bodies lying anywhere on Abaco and we have not responded.”
Ferguson was speaking during a press conference at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) headquarters.
Shortly before 6 p.m., Ferguson said, in a statement, that the death toll rose to 51.
“Shortly after 10 a.m., the decomposed body of a Caucasian male was recovered in Marsh Harbour,” he said.
“We recognize that many persons are presumed missing and we anticipate the discovery of more deceased persons as the process of search and recovery progresses.”
Dorian tore through Abaco and Grand Bahama two weeks ago as one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the northern Bahamas.
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said Bahamians should prepare themselves for a “staggering” death toll.
Ferguson admitted yesterday that the recovery teams have not gotten to many areas on Abaco.
“We are far from really covering the entire area,” he said.
“The island is vast. It is not something that will happen overnight, and we will continue to do our best.”
NEMA Director Captain Stephen Russell said search and recovery could be ongoing for months.
“Recovery can well go into another two or three months,” he said.
“It’s a slow process.”
He added, “The main challenge with the continued search and recovery is quite a bit of debris; heavy debris on the island, in The Mudd and other areas. You would have seen huge 40-foot containers spread across the whole community. They would have gone as far as they can with the resources they had — the sniffer dogs — but we now need to move to lifting those heavy containers out of the way, cars out of the way, so we can really get down to the ground level to see if there are any bodies of deceased persons in those areas. That is our main task now moving forward.”
Asked about continued reports of looting on Abaco, Ferguson urged the public to have patience with the police. He also suggested that there was not much opportunity for looting in the Marsh Harbour area.
“I think people have to be a little patient,” he said.
“Marsh Harbour, Abaco, after the storm, was in total disarray. You had blockage all over the place, so, therefore, when you deploy teams into an environment, you have to get familiar with the environment and be able to maneuver, so I just urge those persons to be a bit patient.
“You had the opportunity to go to Marsh Harbour and it was total destruction, so really what you would have seen for your own two eyes, there’s really not much of a building there. It’s a lot of rubble. My colleague from the defense force, we are committed to making sure that there is safety provided around the island of Abaco.”
However, he did say that police have already made some arrests.
“We have arrested several persons,” he said.
“Just overnight we have arrested persons – last night. I am pretty sure that as long as people continue to go afoul of the law, we will arrest them.”
Asked how many officers are on the ground there, Ferguson said “plenty”.
“We have plenty officers, plenty officers,” he said.
“All over the place, we have plenty officers. You don’t have to worry about numbers, but we have plenty officers.”