Zero tolerance

Weeks after Hurricane Dorian wiped out several shantytowns on Abaco, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis declared yesterday that “those facilities will not be tolerated” in the wake of the catastrophic storm.

“The government has made a determination that shantytowns are not in compliance with zoning codes,” Minnis told The Nassau Guardian.

“Thus, [they will] place individuals at health, environmental and other risks especially a risk with hurricanes. All individuals must comply with our code. Those facilities will not be tolerated as we are a country of law.”

The prime minister said buildings in the shantytowns were “inferiorly built” and were “set up for disaster, flooding, hurricane, etc.”

“They were not built with any safety codes and individuals’ lives and health were in danger in those facilities and we want to ensure that individuals are properly housed [with] proper facilities and not exposed to all the elements,” Minnis said.

Minnis said Cabinet is “looking at the possibility of making Sand Banks and The Mudd memorial sites in honor of those who would’ve died”.

National Emergency Management Agency Director Captain Stephen Russell said yesterday that he had learned that people have already asked to set up tents at shantytown sites in Abaco.

Russell said that is not going to happen “at all”.

He said the areas will be cleared and then zoned until the government finalizes its plans to rebuild on the island.

Russell also said the government will set up proper temporary housing facilities on Abaco for those who wish to return and have nowhere else to stay.

“…We need to tie it into a sewage system, likewise an electrical supply and water,” said Russell.

“So, we have to control that before anything goes on in those areas.”

 More than 300 Haitians are listed as missing following Dorian’s decimation of Abaco.

The storm has left at least 50 dead; however, officials said the death toll is expected to increase significantly.

On Sunday, the government issued an immediate ban on the construction of any new buildings in the four major shantytowns on Abaco.

“The minister of housing and the environment has issued a prohibition to build order for The Mudd, Pigeon Peas, Sand Banks and Farm Road community areas located on the island of Abaco with immediate effect,” the Ministry of Housing and the Environment said in a statement.

The order, which is valid for at least six months, mandates that “no person shall erect any new building or development for the purposes of residing or carrying out any commercial activity” in the identified areas.

The ministry said the order may be extended for further periods of up to six months “as required”.

It also noted that the purpose of the order is “to allow for recovery efforts and the removal of storm debris related to Hurricane Dorian”.

The ban came as the government continues to face legal pushback following its announcement last year that shantytowns would be demolished.

The government gave residents of most shantytowns on New Providence until August 10, 2018, to leave before demolition.

Residents in shantytowns on Abaco were to be given until the end of July 2019 to leave.

However, in August 2018, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson granted an injunction blocking the demolition of shantytown structures.

The Supreme Court has adjourned the case several times.

It was most recently adjourned to Thursday.

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