Nothing could have adequately prepared Abaco and Grand Bahama for Hurricane Dorian. No one could have anticipated that it would sit on Grand Bahama for as long as it did.
We knew the islands were low-lying.
We knew there would be massive flooding.
The prime minister ordered the evacuation of the Abaco cays, West and East Grand Bahama and its cays.
Thousands of residents in Abaco and Grand Bahama were stranded by the storm’s floodwaters.
Thousands more have been left homeless and destitute.
Many people died in the storm. Far more than the 45 official deaths. Many bodies are yet to be recovered; they all deserve a Christian burial.
Marsh Harbour and the Mudd, though low-lying, were not ordered to evacuate.
Marsh means wet marshy land. This is how Marsh Harbour got its name; the Mudd means exactly that – it’s a wetland area into which mud from the harbor was pumped to dredge the harbor and to construct the public dock.
Marsh Harbour airport was prone to flooding; it floods even when there are very heavy downpours of rain.
And East Grand Bahama has no safe shelter.
It was known that the waves would be in excess of 20 feet high, winds at 185 miles per hour plus. Yet there was no adequate and appropriate ground operation to safely relocate people from low-lying areas.
Persons in low-lying areas were told to go to the highest point in their homes. Those who did so found themselves trapped. Some of them panicked, going into their ceilings; others went on rooftops, and many ran in the storm, hoping to find shelter.
People who were ordered to evacuate from the cays, and did not, survived; there were no fatalities in the cays.
Nearly all fatalities were persons in low-lying areas.
It was a mistake to ask people to evacuate or to move from low-lying areas without a plan. Evacuees and those entreated to seek higher ground should have been informed of the means for them to get to a safer place. That’s the principal reason for the existence of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF). It should have been pre-positioned, ready, equipped and able to provide support in relocating persons before the storm hit.
Post-storm, the government is scrambling to put together a plan of action.
There was and there is no organized leadership on the ground in the affected islands.
Groups, organizations and individuals who have donated supplies are having great difficulty in getting their donations delivered. To add insult to injury, the government has put in place policies and procedures hindering delivery of such supplies from abroad.
Since the storm, there are many communities where no central government presence exists. This includes all of Little Abaco and reportedly East Grand Bahama.
In Treasure Cay, Abaco, supplies are being left at the airport with no order for the distribution; people can take what they want in any quantity.
The Bahamas must be truly and forever grateful to the Americans and to the British for invaluable assistance. It is regrettable that RBDF officers were not placed with them so there could be skills transferred.
A CNN reporter from Grand Bahama said: “There is no sense of organization. I couldn’t tell who’s in charge here. I’m not sure there is anyone in charge here.”
And a headline in The New York Times on Sunday, September 8, 2019 read: “In Bahamas, Battered Residents Ask: Where Is Our Government?”
This storm is a test of the readiness and preparedness of the Free National Movement government.
Bahamians are growing increasingly anxious and angry.
These are life-and-death issues confronting our people.
This is not the time for hubris, pride or pouting. This is a time for humility and leadership.
Simply stated, this is a time to get the job done effectively and competently.