Eight months after their deaths, 55 victims of Hurricane Dorian were buried in Central Pines, Abaco on Friday. Their remains were encased in white coffins and interred as the screams of some of their loved ones echoed in the distance.
Due to the government’s social distancing guidelines because of the novel coronavirus, many families were forced to watch from a distance.
Before the ecumenical service proceeded, several angry family members, many of whom wore shirts and held signs with the names and images of the loved ones, expressed their anger and disappointment.
“This is wrong and disrespectful at its highest level. No one wants their loved ones buried and they are not there,” one relative shouted.
Pointing to the pastors who traveled to Abaco from New Providence to take part in the service, the relative added, “No disrespect to the people of the cloth, but if they could have just jumped on a plane to come over here and bury these strangers, why couldn’t the family be able to come over.”
As he delivered the sermon, Pastor Elbert Tinker, president of the Abaco Christian Council, pleaded for unity.
“People of God, let us do what we have been called to do today, to inter our loved ones, to let them rest,” he said. “Let’s come together now. This country doesn’t need division… We need love.”
North Abaco MP Darren Henfield, who attended the service, agreed that it is not the time for division.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of time to relitigate what happened and what should have happened, what people thought should have been done differently, or could have been done differently,” he said.
“I just wanted to be here today to pay my respect to families with loved ones gone, including some of my own.
“It is our hope that after we have conclusive DNA, which we are pushing toward every day so that families may be able to find the closure that they seek.
“But it is very difficult for someone to experience the parting of a loved one. Only they can tell you what will bring proper closure, but as a government we are going to do all that we can to exhaust every avenue to determine who is who and how we can reunite them with their loved ones.”
The government said forensic DNA profiling analysis is ongoing.
The Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) said it has been advised that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, laboratories have shifted priorities.
Despite some delays within the operations of laboratories internationally, the Royal Bahamas Police Force has indicated that collaboration with a highly recognized laboratory, very skilled in dealing with DNA sampling, is proving good results. It is anticipated that receipt of some results is expected soon. The analysis of the samples proved very difficult and challenging, according to the DRA. Hence, it said more specialized DNA analysis methods were sought, which impacted the ability to provide closure to families in a timelier fashion.