Three years after Irma, little progress on Ragged Is., MP and residents say

Three years after Hurricane Irma devastated Ragged Island, there is still no police station, no post office, no administration office and no clinic, Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper lamented yesterday.

“Apart from the construction of the school, which is underway, very little has been done,” Cooper told The Nassau Guardian.

Some residents told a similar story.

Myron Lockhart-Bain, a 59-year-old resident, said the government has not completed much since the storm.

“Basically, they have done nothing,” Lockhart-Bain said.

“They are constructing the school now. That’s a backward move because we don’t have no clinics, no police stations, no administration, more vital things. The school could have been accommodated elsewhere.”

The damage caused on Ragged Island by Irma in September 2017 was so extensive that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) deemed the island “uninhabitable”. Scores of people left the island in the aftermath of that storm. However, some have since returned.

After Irma, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the island will become a green island. Minnis also pledged that the government will invest $8 million to restore public infrastructure there.

In Parliament last year, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said the government planned to spend $4 million to rebuild the island’s school. 

“The ordinary Nassuvian may question spending $4 million to build a school in Ragged Island for six children that doubles as a hurricane shelter for a community of 60, but to the residents it’s life and death,” Bannister said.

A solar project was initially expected to be completed by the end of December 2019. However, Bahamas Power and Light Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey reported in January that the project had been delayed due to Hurricane Dorian.

In late April, Bannister said the island’s solarization was completed. 

“I know that the solarization is complete and they’re testing it,” he said.

Cooper said yesterday the people of Ragged Island are tired of waiting on what apparently will come. 

“As the COVID-19 pandemic rages in the country, there is no clinic, no doctor, no nurse on Ragged Island,” he tweeted, adding that “the government must do right by Ragged Island”.

Ragged Island’s population is now between 75 and 100, according to Cooper. It was around 130 to 150 prior to Irma.

Residents like Granville Hepburn, an elderly man, are concerned, among other things, by the lack of medical personnel.

“I have pressure sometimes,” Hepburn said.

“Everyone on the island is concerned about medical help on the island. The MP always reminds them in Parliament all the time about the lack of medical facilities and other government facilities on the island. It’s been three years since the hurricane. It’s unbelievable, to tell you the truth.”

Lockhart-Bain added, “We already have had several accidents so far and had to have people airlifted out of here. One or two people just [fell] sick and these horrendous prices these pilots charge to evacuate people from this island for a medical emergency, the price goes up from $3,700 to $9,000 and $12,000.

“[There’s] no one other than my wife who is a first responder who liaises with Exuma and the doctors and nurses on any medical matter that has to be flown out for an emergency.”

Rochelle Maycock, a 34-year-old who also lives on Ragged Island, also said the need for a nurse on the island is critical.

“I really need medical personnel over here in Ragged Island,” Maycock said.

“All kinds of things are happening in Ragged Island. Someone [fell] and broke their hand and had to get flown out. That plane must [have taken] five or six hours to come for that person. That happened lately, a couple weeks ago.”

Cooper said there seems to be little concern for the health and safety of the residents.

“The fishing village has multiple construction projects ongoing,” he said. “I have expressed a fear and concern repeatedly that people will get hurt and there could be dire consequences.”

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Italia Clarke

Italia Clarke joined the Nassau Guardian in August 2020. Clarke covers national, human interest and social issues. Education: University of The Bahamas, BA in Media Journalism

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