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Some Abaconians are ‘losing hope’

Ten months after Hurricane Dorian laid waste to parts of Abaco, Darrell Pinder, 42, a pastor at Assemblies of God in Cherokee Sound, said the situation on the ground is heartbreaking, and many are losing hope.

“There are still a lot of people that don’t have electricity,” he said.

“I know that they’re doing their best to get it up and going, but it is very hard for a lot of these people.

“They’re losing hope.

“There have been a lot of people who promised that they were going to help them and they’re still not finding any help. Every time it rains, all of their stuff is getting damaged that they might have just acquired and been able to get to put back inside their houses.”

Karina Pinder, 37, who lives on Hope Town, said many damaged homes haven’t even been touched yet.

She said the lack of electricity in the summer heat is especially unbearable with her 7-year-old and 18-month-old children, and is also slowing reconstruction efforts.

“Day and night, it’s miserable,” she said.

She added, “Everyday living is still hard, but the heat just makes it that much worse.”

More than a month into the 2020 hurricane season, Pinder said even the idea of a tropical storm is terrifying.

“If we get a storm this season, we all fear Abaco can’t come back from another blow,” she said.

“[We] try not to think about a storm this season because even a small one would significantly hurt Abaco at this point. We never used to flinch over a Category 3, but we would be nervous with a tropical storm at this point in recovery.”

Dorian was a Category 5 storm when it decimated Abaco and Grand Bahama last September. Thousands of homes were either badly damaged or destroyed. Officials said over 70 people died because of the storm, and more are listed as missing.

While rebuilding on those islands has started, the scars of Dorian are still fresh. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the ordeal.

Darrell Pinder said he is praying there are no hurricanes this year.

“It’s a major problem that’s on a lot of people’s minds here, right now,” he said.

“They are already in a dire situation, and if something comes along, what little bit they have left, can be totally destroyed.

“[M]ost of these people have lost their jobs, everything that they own in their houses. They don’t have any finances, no job and their houses are in terrible, terrible condition. Some don’t have any houses at all.”

Pinder said there is not nearly enough shelter space for people who would need it.

“There is no way that you could have enough shelters to be able to handle all of the people and the situation that is here now,” he said.

“There is no way you could handle that.”

A May 2020 report from the International Organization for Migration highlighted the lack of shelter space on both Abaco and Grand Bahama.

The report noted that while there was sufficient shelter space on the islands during Hurricane Dorian, many shelters remain damaged from the storm. It also noted that more people on those islands will likely seek space in official shelters due to their experiences during Dorian.

COVID-19

While a goal of September 2020 was set for the reopening of all public schools, which also have historically acted as hurricane shelters on Abaco, Minister of Education Jeff Lloyd said the Patrick J. Bethel High School will certainly not meet the deadline, in part, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pinder said the pandemic has significantly impacted reconstruction efforts on the island, as many NGOs that had been on the ground in the aftermath of Dorian left the country due to the pandemic.

“Almost everything that we were trying to accomplish to help people over here, it’s come to a standstill since COVID, because they had to leave,” he said.

“So, we don’t have a lot of the stuff coming in that we were using to help people.

“[P]lus, people on the ground that were actually doing the work and working on these roofs and stuff, all of that has come to almost a standstill, except for Samaritan’s Purse and Openworld Relief. That’s two of the organizations that I know are left.

“[B]ut it’s a terrible situation because you’ve got all of these roofs and things that need to be repaired.”

Karina Pinder said there aren’t enough contractors on the island for all the work that needs to be done.

“COVID-19 really slowed our progress and there is so much to be done, but every worker and contractor are swamped,” she said.

Darrell Pinder said many have already given up and left the island to start new lives elsewhere, while others who want to come back are not able to, due to a lack of facilities.

He said he believes it’s up to ordinary Bahamians to restore normalcy on Abaco.

“I think that we, as Bahamians, are going to determine how long this road is going to be, by how much we depend upon the government and if we learn to be our brother’s keeper and help one another on a one-on-one basis,” he said.

Karina Pinder said she’s just trying to remain positive.

“Abaco is coming back, thanks to the people and charities,” she said.

“[But] there is overall anger that things haven’t gone faster or [not enough] help from the government or where did all Abaco donations go.

“Ten months later, everyone should have had power already.”

She added, “But we try to remain positive and look at all the good news and things that are coming back. Lots of resilient people are what’s bringing Abaco back.”

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