Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands yesterday branded allegations that the government is attempting to hide the true number of storm-related deaths as “absurd” and charged that anyone seeking to hide dead bodies is either “dumb, dangerous or both”.
Sands said while the official death toll in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian remains at 56 for now, he believes that many of the missing are dead.
“We have not received any more than 56 bodies in our morgues anywhere, whether we’re talking about coolers in the field, the morgue at the Rand, in New Providence or in Abaco,” said Sands, who called into Guardian Radio show “Morning Blend” with host Dwight Strachan.
“And let me go even further; we live in a country where confidentiality and the ability to keep a secret is not a skill that many of us have. So, if there were, as the conspiracy theorists believe, either one, or ten, or 100 bodies that had been collected and not turned over to the health authorities, then anybody perpetrating that attempt to deceive the public is either dumb, or dangerous or both.”
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported this week that just over 600 people remain missing.
Sands said many of their bodies have likely been swept out to sea or are trapped beneath the rubble.
“If you look at the unregulated or shantytown areas in Abaco, there are many, many feet of rubble with metal, concrete, wood, trailers, cars and it is quite likely that there are a number of human remains among that rubble, and as we go through that deliberately, methodically and with a level of respect for those people that have lost their lives, that we will from time to time, uncover one, or ten or more bodies as we go through that process,” Sands added.
“But, I am certainly not aware that there have been bodies that have been retrieved or recovered from the field that have been placed in some super-secret area 51 in The Bahamas and it is being done in order to suppress the information, particularly as it relates to any group of occupants, residents of the Bahamas.
“It makes for an interesting story, but the absurdity of it all is just incredible.”
Dorian, a dangerous Category 5 storm, leveled portions of Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September.
Asked how long it will be before death certificates are issued for victims of Hurricane Dorian who are missing, Sands noted that there could be serious implications declaring someone dead in the absence of remains.
He said exceptions are usually only made following some mass casualty events where authorities and the courts deem it in the best interest of the public to declare the victims dead.
“We are not at that point yet,” Sands said. “The attorney general has intimated that there’s a consideration to make such a declaration, but it would be a terrible thing to declare Duane Sands dead if Duane Sands just happens to be somewhere where nobody has been able to reach him and now he is – and I’m not trying to be funny – a walking dead person. So, to declare somebody dead has serious implications…”
Despite the pace of recovery, Sands said he still maintains that the death toll will be staggering.
“Already this storm has claimed more lives… than any storm that we can recall,” he said. “And the expectation is that, as horrifying as these numbers are already, that these numbers are going to climb… I believe that the loss of life from Dorian in The Bahamas, when this entire story is told, will be staggering.”