Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis said yesterday that 34 domes in the government’s Family Relief Centre in Spring City, Abaco, will be ready for move in this Friday.
While Disaster Reconstruction Authority Chairman John Michael Clarke previously said that 32 domes were going to be ready by last Friday, February 20, Lewis told reporters that there was a delay due to utility connections.
“The Family Relief Center, I’m made to understand that by this Friday, at least 34 are going to be ready,” Lewis said on the sidelines of Sir Michael Barnett’s swearing-in ceremony as Court of Appeal president at Government House yesterday.
“There was an issue with the utility connections. They are in place so it’s just a matter now of putting in the…supplies and then families will be able to move in by this Friday.”
Lewis said that it has not been determined who will be selected to move into the domes, which have two bedrooms each.
However, he said that displaced Abaconians will be considered first.
The Family Relief Center was originally announced in October following the passing of Hurricane Dorian nearly six months ago in September.
Dorian, the strongest storm on record to hit The Bahamas, devastated Abaco and Grand Bahama leaving at least 70 dead and thousands displaced.
The Family Relief Centre was to be comprised of 250 domes, with an allocated cost of $6.4 million.
The Disaster Reconstruction Authority said an estimated $4 million “has been committed to cost”, and that the domes will be “free for a time” for storm survivors.
With the beginning of the next hurricane season in June, only four months away, and with experts warning that superstorms like Dorian could become the new norm in an era of global climate change, Lewis said the ministry is making preparations and will be ready.
Perspective – a section published every Monday in The Nassau Guardian – recently noted that residents were ordered to evacuate to locations that were, according to flood models released by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) before the storm’s landfall, forecast to sustain significant flooding and wind damage, forcing evacuees to flee for their lives in Category 5 storm conditions once shelters failed.
Lewis said that looking at shelters is part of his ministry’s preparations as shelters will be tested and new ones could possibly be constructed.
“The plan down the road is to build new ones…but in the meantime we do have hurricane shelters on the list and we’ll go through all of those that were identified as hurricane shelters to ensure that it can adequately function as safe hurricane shelters,” he said.
The minister said that structural engineers would be engaged to ensure each shelter “is not under any type of duress where it would collapse under extreme conditions”, and that the ministry would perform “our necessary checks and balances” to see that each building is “adequately supplied with electricity and water”.
He also said that the ministry would like to decentralize NEMA and that it is conducting training throughout the country to ensure preparedness.
“We have to decentralize NEMA and put the same facilities in place that we have in Nassau on other islands – Abaco, like Grand Bahama, like a central zone and also a zone for the south,” Lewis said.
He added, “If the question is, ‘Are we ready today?’, no.
“But of course we do have time. Are we getting ready? Yes. Will we be ready? Yes.”
Speaking to Perspective recently, NEMA Director Captain Stephen Russell said the organization is revising its National Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan to “adjust names and contacts of persons who head the subcommittees throughout the islands” although the Disaster Preparedness and Response Act calls for the plan to provide an annual preparation of procedural assessments.
According to Lewis, Russell is spearheading preparation plans for the upcoming hurricane season, and the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction will make announcements “in short order” once preparations are completed; “because we realize that at NEMA we have to build capacity”.