J'cans affected by Dorian in wait-and-see mode

Associate editor — news/health

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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NASSAU, The Bahamas — Jamaicans who have been evacuated from hurricane-ravaged islands in The Bahamas to New Providence, where the country's capital is located, are now in wait-and-see mode.
The disclosure was made by Jamaica's honorary consul to The Bahamas, Terrel A Butler, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer at her Shirley Street and Victoria Avenue office in Nassau last Thursday.
More than 5,000 people have been evacuated from the affected islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama since killer storm Dorian wreaked havoc two weeks ago, the National Emergency Management Agency has said.
Butler said at least 31 Jamaicans are among them. The group was evacuated by boat from Marsh Harbour, Abaco, and arrived at Potter's Cay Dock in Nassau after the storm.
“Some want to stay here in hopes that things will be rebuilt and they might be able to go back, because some of them are permanent residents,” Butler, who took up the post in June, said. “Some have firm status in the country, in terms of being the spouses of Bahamians, and they have families here, so they have strong roots.
“Some had businesses as well, and so they're waiting to see what is going to happen first before they move on,” Butler explained. “Some are capable of financing themselves while they wait.”
She said, too, that others have said they want to return to Jamaica but later changed their minds, adding that the Jamaican Government has made efforts to assist them.
“I think it's the ones that are not able to do so right now (finance themselves), that sometimes express an interest in leaving, and then they will hold off a bit and say they are hanging on,” the honorary consul told the Observer.
She mentioned one family that the Jamaican Government was ready to assist, but at short notice the family informed her that the husband got a job in Nassau, and they were going to stay in the capital.
“And so persons are generally settled in the Bahamian society, so there's a little reluctance to go — there is still the hope that they will be able to find jobs,” Butler said, adding that the strength of the country's currency and having dependent relatives in Jamaica might be factors influencing evacuees' decision to remain in The Bahamas.
Besides evacuating to New Providence, Butler said Jamaicans have also gone to the United States and to other islands of The Bahamas, however, she was unable to definitively say how many Jamaicans have been evacuated or the number of them who are living in the 700-island archipelago.
“Once they arrive [in New Providence], they have free will and they could go wherever they want to go... We know that they have been registered as they enter through Odyssey [Aviation] (site of a displaced persons' registration desk). We know that there are some that arrived by boat... so we don't have any concrete numbers in terms of those that have been evacuated,” she said.
She also advised the Observer that she had heard that a large number of Jamaican teachers who were in Abaco islands, as well as Jamaicans working with banks, were evacuated, but those individuals have not made contact with her so it is difficult to determine the numbers.
She did say, however, that all the evacuated Jamaicans with whom she has spoken have said they lost everything in the hurricane.
The honorary consul also pointed out that her only point of reference for the number of Jamaicans in The Bahamas is the Bahamian Government's census that was done in 2010, which puts the number at more than 4,000.
“We've always invited them to come in to the consulate when they arrive in The Bahamas to register, but that procedure is not followed. And so we don't have a precise number, and even if persons come in they also leave without notifying [us], so it is a bit challenging,” she explained.
In the Senate last Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith called on Jamaicans who live, work or travel overseas to register with the country's missions so they can easily be located during times of emergency.
The minister said efforts are continuing to reach the estimated 8,000 Jamaicans in The Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian's rampage which has left 51 people dead and just over 1,300 missing.
“When you travel, register at the missions of Jamaica in the country where you are either travelling, living or working. Register with the honorary consul, the embassy or high commission, so they know that you are there,” the minister urged.




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