In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is calling for a mandatory evacuation protocol to be established in The Bahamas.
“Based on the official death toll and the number of persons unaccounted for after the passage of Hurricane Dorian, it is due time for a mandatory evacuation protocol to be established,” it said in its recent report, “Assessment of the Effects and Impacts of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas”.
However, the report noted that the government must be able to guarantee shelter for evacuees before making evacuations mandatory.
“Before making evacuation mandatory, it is also necessary to have provisions in place that guarantee shelter for all those in need, as well as the conditions that trigger the mandatory evacuation,” it said.
The Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill, 2019, was tabled in the House of Assembly last October, in the weeks following Dorian. There has been little movement on the bill since then, but, if passed, it would introduce mandatory evacuations, providing that those who fail to heed evacuation orders could be imprisoned for up to one month.
The IDB recommended that the bill be passed.
“It is worthy to note that the prime minister of [The] Bahamas has recently proposed amendments in the form of a new bill to the Disaster Preparedness and Response Act,” the report said.
“The bill seeks to empower the prime minister to make evacuation orders, curfews and restrictions of movement in certain areas for a specific period, for the protection of people.
“Additionally, under the proposed changes, where an evacuation order is in effect and residents within the specified area or island have not evacuated, without a justifiable reason, could be liable to a US$500 fine or one month in prison, or both.”
It added, “Even though these proposals are still in the consultative stage, it is recommended to approve the changes proposed by the bill.”
The introduction and passage of a mandatory evacuation law in The Bahamas was promised by Minnis last year, as Hurricane Dorian, a monster Category 5 storm, ravaged Grand Bahama and Abaco.
On September 1, Minnis said though he pleaded publicly for residents on the Abaco cays and other settlements to leave, many did not heed the warning.
The official count of Dorian’s missing is 279. The official death toll is 76 — 63 on Abaco and 13 on Grand Bahama.
Three years ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Minnis promised movement on such legislation, but it never happened.