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In East GB, grim realities in Dorian’s wake

Dunlock Munnings has lost everything in Hurricane Dorian, including his family.

But he’s holding out hope.

Munnings said his family isn’t dead — they’re missing.

“I call it missing [rather] than say death,” a seemingly angry Munnings told The Nassau Guardian inside his brother’s home in High Rock, Grand Bahama, on Saturday.

“Death is not a word I’d use and death I’d never believe until I see it.

“So, I’m saying they missing.

“Who did it? Nature.”

Munnings was at work when Dorian, then a Category 5 hurricane, moved over Grand Bahama.

The eye of Dorian moved directly over High Rock on Monday night. It stayed over Grand Bahama for 48 hours, with winds up to 220 miles per hour and storm surges of 20 feet.

Munnings said he was trapped at work and was away from his family.

When he finally made it home, he said, there was nothing left.

His home was leveled and his wife, son and grandson gone.

His wife, Maria Lawrence Munnings, 53; son, Raphael Munnings, 29; and grandson, DJ Donny Munnings, 6, are presumed to have been washed out to sea during the storm surge that swallowed the tiny community.

When asked what he’s doing now, Munnings said, “Surviving.”

Ruins

High Rock, once a community with a police station, clinic, school and church, is now in ruins.

Roughly 10 to 15 homes remain. Many are struggling to accept the devastation that visited their community.

For Ronnie Laing, 52, a roofing contractor, High Rock isn’t worth living in anymore.

“How can you wake up every day to this?” he asked outside his home.

All of his possessions are gone. His home is still standing, though, and his wife and son are safe.

High Rock, like other areas of Grand Bahama and Abaco, is ground zero.

There is some semblance of hope in the community. On Saturday, residents gathered outside under a white tent where food from the United States and water were stored.

When The Guardian visited the community with members of the Progressive Liberal Party, no government officials were visible. Teams from the United States and other international agencies were moving throughout. Residents said representatives from the Ministry of Social Services had visited them.

But on Saturday, a plucky group of Americans were moving about High Rock distributing food, water and toiletries. They took photos with the survivors. They comforted them.

Overhead, U.S. Coast Guard helicopters flew in search of survivors or dead bodies on the ground. The choppers whizzed by nearly every 10 minutes, drowning out the silence in High Rock.

Many residents said they are lucky to be alive.

Laing pointed to a flattened building across the street from his home.

“There was a handicapped guy over there; he’s a former teacher,” he said.

“If I’m not mistaken, there was a husband and wife for sure and maybe there was a daughter. I’m not sure. They were over there.

“There’s another house over there that you can hardly see that’s totally destroyed. That was a two-story house. That individual, they found him out here.

“I lost my neighbors.”

Missing

Jefford Kemp, who lives across the street, said some 13 to 15 people are missing.

“They found a couple of bodies but like that house right there, apparently three went out,” he said, pointing to another home.

“One out this,” he said, pointing to another.

Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis asked, “Died?”

Kemp said, “I have to say went.”

He then made the sign of the cross.

“They didn’t find the one in there. That one in there they found him some place in the back there.

“A full family, mother, daughter and son, went in that house. Then about seven or eight people were in Pastor Pinder’s house.”

Kemp stopped speaking and moved his arms to indicate that they were lost.

“We’ve only found three of the bodies so far from what was missing from this area,” he said.

Many of the lost are believed to have been swept out to sea during the storm surge, Kemp said.

He said he’s been in four hurricanes and this was the worst he’s ever experienced.

“More people get hurt this time than ever,” he said.

“Everybody in this settlement was touched by something that gone wrong.

“Most of the people, their house is totally gone. It’s sad. It’s hard to grieve. You have to keep a balance.

“…Everybody needs some help.”

Pull together

In the meantime, the residents are trying to pull together.

Laing said he has a generator, a grill, a propane tank and gas. In their community, these are lifesavers.

“We had a lot of food,” he said.

“A lot of the residents who were here were congregating to get fed because we have a lot of gas and we have the grill and we have propane in the grill. There was chicken. There is a lot of cooking going on. Because we have the generator and gas we have stuff in the refrigerator.”

There is also running water.

But the trauma lingers.

Laing said his family is struggling to grapple with the aftermath of the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the northern Bahamas.

He spoke barely above a whisper. His eyes were hidden by thick black shades and a hat.

“My son, he is really traumatized,” he said.

“I can tell by the way he’s responding that he is really, really traumatized.

“I can tell that Ms. Laing is really traumatized too because she is just constantly working. It’s like she’s keeping the mind occupied with work.”

Laing said his son lost most, if not all of his friends in the storm.

“He’s not talking about it,” he said.

“He goes out all day and comes home angry. One day he went out looking for his god brother.

“The house was destroyed but he went there calling out, ‘Charles, Charles, Charles.’

“His godfather responded. He was under the rubble. My son lifted him out on his back and carried him to his family. That further traumatized him.”

But Laing isn’t immune either.

His family had to flee to their ceiling when the water came.

“It was rough,” he said.

“I started thinking about the Titanic when Jack disappeared. When Jack just went and she was calling Jack and I said, ‘Laron, I’m thinking about doing the Titanic.’

“He said, ‘No, you can’t do that daddy.’

“That feeling was overwhelming.”

Laing said he’s angry.

“Some people rejoice and some people are thankful,” he said.

“I really am thankful, but why I become angry is because when you are living in an area that is already depressed and where people are only surviving and they see you and they ask you for money you know they are not doing good.

“Then you get a storm that further pushes you down and you get angry and say, ‘What’s the reason for this?’

“It’s like, 20 years of trying to make it and then in 36 hours, 20 years is wiped away.

“They have nothing and you say, ‘Hey, what is the reason for it?’

“You look around. What is the purpose of it?

“That’s when anger sets in because you are trying to get your mind to wrap around it and you can’t figure it out.”

A few houses down, Rendal “Yanks” Munnings and Kenneth Rolle were sitting in their living room.

Munnings’ niece, grandniece and grandnephew are missing.

He has no illusions.

“They got washed away,” he said in a sharp tone, angered by The Guardian’s question about his hope in finding them.

He added, “Just like the rest got washed out.”

His brother, Charles, was rescued by Laing’s son. But Charles’ family is gone.

“It ain’t easy,” Munnings said.

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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018. Education: College of The Bahamas, English

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