The government will commence cleanup efforts of what remains of The Mudd and Pigeon Peas shantytowns in Abaco by next month, said Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis yesterday.
Lewis, the MP for Central Grand Bahama, was sworn in as minister of state during a ceremony at Government House yesterday.
Lewis’ new role includes dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian – a catastrophic hurricane that left at least 53 people dead on Abaco and Grand Bahama.
Several shantytowns on Abaco were destroyed during the storm.
After the ceremony, Lewis said Bahamian companies will be used for the shantytown cleanup.
Lewis said reconnaissance work has already been completed on Abaco and “contracts [are] being prepared right now for teams to move in”.
He stressed that the teams will be made up of Bahamian companies.
“…As I said earlier, we know the approach that we’re going to take,” he said.
“We have companies already on the radar. We have contracts being prepared. Equipment [and] manpower has already been mobilized.”
On Sunday, Lewis said people who remained on Abaco weeks after portions of the island were smashed by Dorian might have to temporarily relocate.
“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,” Lewis said.
Hundreds of Abaco residents were evacuated from the island, many of them to New Providence.
When pressed on the issue yesterday, the minister said that a plan was still being formulated.
“We do know one thing, in certain parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama, persons must not be allowed to inhabit areas where we are working,” Lewis said.
“For example, in Abaco where we have to clean up, let’s say, The Mudd or Pigeon Peas, where we don’t know what we’re going to find when we take the debris up.
“The approach will never be to just use an excavator and do a grab of the debris. We have to take layer by layer. It’s going to be very tedious. It’s going to be very sensitive.”
When asked if the government would force residents from their homes, Lewis replied, “I never said that and I never used the word force. You used the word force. There’s no way in the world that we’re going to force anybody, but we’ll make sure whatever is needed in order for us to be effective in our job will be done and we hope that persons will cooperate.”