Damage as far as the eye can see
During two recent trips to the Bahamas, I had the opportunity to see first-hand the damage that Hurricane Dorian inflicted on the islands and talk with surviving residents. Dorian was a Category 5 storm, with sustained winds of 180 and one of the strongest on record there. It is by far, the worst hurricane destruction I’ve seen in my 40+ years in the business.
I came over with the good folks from Sol Relief, whom we mentioned in our last newsletter. We brought much-needed supplies, including food, medicines, large potable water containers, filtration systems, generators, air conditioners, and building materials. Volunteer Sol Relief pilots John Auer and his son Billy of St. Pete Air showed me the relief operation. We landed in Treasure Cay and took a ferry boat to Green Turtle Cay, a small low island off the eastern coast of the Abaco Islands to deliver the supplies.
Destruction is everywhere you look. There were 450 residents and about 200 homes before Dorian struck on September 1. Half of the residents have either moved away since the storm or are dead – no one seems to know for sure. There’s no running water, no electricity, and not a single business is open. Cellular phone service is spotty at best. Real communications are an island ferry trip away.
Green Turtle has about 80% natives and 20% Americans with second homes. Noticeably lacking on my tours was any sort of organized recovery or rebuilding effort. There are no huge utility bucket trucks rolling down the street to restore power. There is no federal emergency management agency with swarms of consultants and employees coming to the rescue. The national emergency management agency of Bahamas is overwhelmed.
There were two hardware stores. The largest one was destroyed – it is flat. The other one is still standing with a few tools left. There were three grocery stores – all destroyed, but luckily they all have insurance. They were working diligently to wipe off whatever inventory they had left to put back on whatever shelves they could find. A few restaurants are trying to do likewise, with labor coming from Cooperstown on the North Abaco Island ferry to help.
There are other parts of the Bahamian Islands that had even worse destruction, especially poorer areas where the homes weren’t in good condition to begin with. There are 60 confirmed deaths in the Bahamas, 600 still missing, and thousands left without food and shelter.
We’re going to have more to come on this story and are putting together a video to share soon. For more information about Sol Relief and their volunteer humanitarian efforts, you can follow them on Facebook or click here to learn how you can help.
LMA Newsletter of 10-7-19