Residents of Grand Bahama and Abaco, two major islands in the Northern Bahamas, continue to struggle to restore some degree of normalcy to their lives after Hurricane Dorian wrought devastation and destruction earlier this week.
The Category 5 hurricane, in a fashion never experienced by the normally-tranquil series of islands, hovered for several days over The Bahamas before moving toward the U.S.
As a native of The Bahamas, it was extremely painful for me to watch reports on television and social media as Dorian, after causing catastrophic damage to Abaco, released its fury in Grand Bahama as it moved at a snail’s pace, blowing off roofs and causing extensive life-threatening flooding.
My pain was intensified by the fact the I lived in Freeport for 12 years prior to returning to the District in 2013 as the Press, Cultural Affairs and Information Manager at The Bahamas Embassy, Moreover, I am very familiar with Abaco because when I was editor of the Freeport News, we published an Abaco edition that required me to visit Abaco at least twice a week.
One resident of Grand Bahama, environmentalist Gail Woon, who sought refuge in a Seventh Day Adventist Church, described Dorian’s assault on Grand Bahama as a “nightmare,” noting that she and “scores of others at the church faced the unthinkable as a portion of the roof at the shelter flew off,” according to a report in the Nassau Guardian.
“I was shocked when the roof fell in,” she told The Nassau Guardian. “There were more people upstairs and someone had opened the window without permission from the manager. The corner of the building’s roof just popped right off.”
At a press conference on Monday, Sept. 2, Prime Minister Huber A. Minnis confirmed that five people had died as Dorian moved through North Abaco but speculation remains that the number of deaths will be higher after subsequent flooding recedes.
The U.S. Coast Guard initiated airlifting people in need of urgent medical care out of Abaco Monday.
In a statement, officials from the US Embassy in Nassau said the U.S. Coast Guard has already launched search and rescue operations in Abaco according to The Tribune, one of Nassau’s major daily newspapers.
“The U.S. Coast Guard’s mission to the Bahamas is assisting victims of Hurricane Dorian in Abaco, in the Bahamas,” the statement said. “U.S. Coast Guard helicopters are evacuating injured persons from the Marsh Harbour clinic to Nassau for urgent care. On Monday afternoon, these helicopters have airlifted 12 persons out of Abaco.”
The statement noted that the U.S. government is “also working with Bahamian counterparts to begin coordinating broader relief efforts.”
“The U.S. government will be providing overflight support to collect imagery of critical infrastructure to provide to the Bahamian government to assist in its response efforts,” the statement said. “Relief agencies will move quickly to assess the affected areas for humanitarian.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar expressed concerned that although the dangerous storm “would have largely affected Grand Bahama and Abaco, visitors unfamiliar with The Bahamas’ geography will believe the entire country was devastated,” according to The Tribune.
This, he said, is likely to affect projections, creating “enormous” concerns for the tourism industry. He also lamented that more than 20,000 cruise ship passengers who were expected to arrive in Nassau have been directed elsewhere due to the storm.
In related news, states of emergency have been declared in the U.S., including Florida, Virginia and North and South Carolina with deadly flooding and surges of waters from the hurricane expected to cause significant damage and death for residents who live along the coasts.