After hundreds of residents on the Abaco cays failed to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Dorian, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday that the government will introduce mandatory evacuation legislation when Parliament resumes.
“This is a deadly storm and a monster storm,” he said during a press conference at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) headquarters.
“On two previous occasions, I asked Bahamians to leave the cays and those in West and East End to move to the central [area] of the island.
“Many have not heeded my warning. Many have remained behind, and still there are individuals within the West End area who still refuse to leave.
“I can only say to them that I hope this is not the last time they will hear my voice, and may God be with them.”
He continued, “Unfortunately, today we do not have legislation in place for mandatory evacuations, but as I speak, I can assure all Bahamians that upon our return to Parliament, we will introduce legislation for mandatory evacuations.”
This is not the first time Minnis has expressed the need for the legislation. Two years ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Minnis promised movement on such legislation.
When asked yesterday why it has been on the back burner since then, he said, “I am certain as I spoke, that the attorney general would have heard my voice, and if I know my attorney general, he is sitting down at this present time drafting the legislation so that the legislation can be brought in.
“But Bahamian people now see the necessity. Also, those who were objecting, they now see the necessity of bringing forth this legislation, and I am certain that we will have very minimal objection.”
He added, “There are many legislations that we are drafting and hoping to bring forth.
“…We never anticipated a hurricane of 180 to 200 [miles per hour]. That places legislations in priority. You gave us five years. We will utilize that five years to bring forth the legislations.”
Hurricane Dorian, a category 5 storm with winds up to 180 miles per hour, wreaked havoc on the Abacos yesterday, leveling homes and flooding most of Marsh Harbour.
Officials warned of potential storm surge between 18 and 23 feet above normal sea levels.
Minnis said that a number of Caribbean countries have said that they are ready and willing to assist if necessary. Those countries included Jamaica, Barbados, Saint Lucia and Turks and Caicos.
As of yesterday, Dorian was the second strongest storm on record in the Atlantic.
Minnis, who was emotional during the press conference, said, “This is probably the most saddening and worst day of my life to address the Bahamian people.
“And I just want to say that as a physician, I have been trained to withstand many things, but never anything like this.”
Minnis added, “We’re facing a hurricane, Hurricane Dorian, that we’ve never seen in the history of The Bahamas. Wind velocity as high as 180 miles per hour, with gusts in excess of 200 miles per hour.
“We have some of the best standards of home building within this region, and our homes are built to withstand at least 150 miles per hour, so this will put us to a test that we’ve never confronted before.”
Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd announced that government schools on New Providence, Eleuthera, Andros, Abaco and the surrounding cays, Grand Bahama, Bimini and Berry Islands are closed until further notice. This includes the University of The Bahamas.
The Anglican archdiocese announced that Anglican schools on New Providence and Grand Bahama would also be closed until further notice.