People who still remain on Abaco weeks after portions of the island were smashed by Hurricane Dorian might have to temporarily relocate, according to Iram Lewis, who has been appointed minister of state for disaster preparedness, recovery and reconstruction.
“Considering the delicate nature of this undertaking, we must make the citizens that currently remain in Abaco aware that relocating them for a short while will more than likely be necessary,” said Lewis during a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.
Hundreds of people were evacuated from the island after the storm early this month, many of them to New Providence.
Lewis said last night he was not sure how many people remain on Abaco. He also could not give details on any plan to relocate those who remain.
His statement raised significant questions, including where the remaining residents would relocate to and what areas the government would wish to see cleared of residents.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced his decision to set up a Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Recovery and Reconstruction yesterday.
He tasked Lewis with coordinating the recovery and reconstruction of Grand Bahama and Abaco.
At the press conference, Lewis said, “In order to clean Abaco of debris, rebuild utilities and critical infrastructure, it is my goal to ensure that the work that must be carried out, can be done in a very timely manner.”
Lewis said his ministry will also focus on rebuilding homes and businesses on the island.
He said it will work with the business community to restart the island’s economy.
“As is clear, the building codes will be addressed and moving forward will be strictly adhered to in order to give the residents of Abaco the best opportunity in the event of another major storm,” Lewis said.
The minister also said his ministry will work with the Grand Bahama Port Authority “to revisit the building codes as they pertain to flood-prone areas.”
“We must also address the topic of proper disaster shelters throughout both islands,” he said.
“It is also my intention to address the West End of Grand Bahama. This area has experienced flooding on too many occasions and the residents are subject to the slow rebuilding and revitalization process that follows.”
Lewis also vowed “total transparency” as his ministry addresses the destruction on Abaco and Grand Bahama.
“In my commitment to total transparency, we will ensure weekly updates are made to the public to inform them of our progress, possible setbacks, etc.,” he said.
“We will also work to create a clear dialogue with the public to ensure proper information is disseminated and that questions are answered by those with the correct answers.”
Lewis said, “We have a huge task ahead of us in Abaco and Grand Bahama and we need your full support if we are going to be successful in rebuilding these islands.
“Regardless of the photos and videos that many of us have seen, it still does not fully represent the level of devastation experienced on these islands.”
Lewis said his ministry intends to pay “close attention to possible hazmat and biohazard components” on Abaco.
He also said it will work “hand in hand” with the Department of Environmental Health to ensure the island is safe.