While Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis acknowledged that the list of missing people from Hurricane Dorian is being handled by the police, he said that duplications played a role in the number of names on the list being reduced “drastically”.
“Well, first of all, it is a police matter,” Lewis said during a Bahamian American Association of the Washington D.C. Mid-Atlantic Region (BAAWMAR) panel on hurricanes and The Bahamas that was held on Sunday.
“Here’s what [happened] and I’m hoping that everyone who’s listening can appreciate this: there’s an initial panic. Persons who would have been reported as missing, for instance, your sister may have reported her sister was not at home, your husband may have reported that his wife was not there, your parents may have reported that their daughter is missing. So, one person was reported multiple times.
“There are persons whose phone was compromised. They left their homes. They went to the shelter. When persons would have gone to their home, the home was empty. So, they may say, ‘Hey, 12 or 13 persons from that home, they’re not there.’ However, they were at the shelter. A lot of persons left [Abaco] so, there’s people moving all over that weren’t initially accounted for.”
The question of how many people went missing during Hurricane Dorian in September has been at the center of controversy following former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands’ comments on the matter in the House of Assembly last week.
On Thursday, in his first address to Parliament since resigning from Cabinet on May 4, Sands said thousands of names of people reported missing immediately after Dorian were removed from the official list, after police took responsibility for that aspect of the storm’s aftermath, noting that no explanation was ever given for why the list was “pruned”.
Minister of National Security Marvin Dames has recently fired back at those comments, stating, “At no time was any attempt made by the police or anyone else to delete any names off the list without first performing due diligence.”
In a statement released earlier on Sunday, Dames said the number of missing stands at 279.
At a press conference held by the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) three weeks ago, Assistant Commissioner of Police Solomon Cash reported that only 33 people were still listed as missing.