'Worse than Gilbert'

'Worse than Gilbert'

Jamaican evacuated from hurricane-ravaged island tries to forget ordeal

Associate editor — news/health

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

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NASSAU, The Bahamas — Mere days after making it out of Marsh Harbour in Abaco Islands, a Jamaican sat among a group of volunteers who was sorting donations for victims of Hurricane Dorian in the capital city of The Bahamas. It was September 12 — the 31st anniversary of Hurricane Gilbert's devastation of Jamaica.

Though clearly a man of very few words, he admitted to the Jamaica Observer that he was trying to forget the ordeal he endured during the passage of Hurricane Dorian, which left a trail of death and destruction in its wake when it battered the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama two weeks ago.

The Jamaican, who asked not to be identified, was in Marsh Harbour through it all.

He told the Observer that although he has no physical injuries, the onslaught of the Category Five weather system that killed at least 50 people, with another 1,300 missing, has left him traumatised.

“Dem storm deh worse than Gilbert, man,” the Jamaican, who is from an address in St Andrew, shared last Thursday.

Hurricane Gilbert devastated Jamaica as a Category Three storm in 1988, claiming an estimated 56 lives, decimating the island's amenities and infrastructure, and leaving behind roughly US$8 million in damage.

The damage to agriculture accounted for more than 40 per cent of the total loss, and 95 per cent of all health facilities suffered damage.

It was also estimated that more than 800,000 individuals sought shelter.

The St Andrew man, who had been living in Marsh Harbour for four years before Hurricane Dorian came knocking, was scheduled to return to Jamaica just before the storm hit on September 1. The weather system delayed his plans and wiped out everything he owned.

“Is like it blow about 200 miles per hour, because it bring like a tornado with it, based on how I see it do the buildings in Marsh Harbour,” he recounted, adding that the house in which he lived — a concrete structure on a hill near the Marsh Harbour Government Complex — “tear right down to the ground”.

“Mi couldn't do nothing more than just stand my back against the wall and brace, until the eye come over,” he continued. “When the eye come over… that's when we move out of it.”

He said he and five other people in the house escaped injury-free.

“We just run fi wi life, that's all,” he said chuckling.

He added: “The house build with shutters on it — all a dem shutter deh blow weh.”

The Jamaican said for a week he could not sleep.

“For a week when mi deh over there, mi nuh get nuh sleep like that. Mi affi just deh deh right through the night, because mi never have nuh proper place to sleep. Mi mostly sleep inna di car because some of the car dem never mash up like that,” he recalled.

“The water just take the road and the lower section,” he continued. “The water nuh come near where we were, but everything weh deh pon the flat, it just stand up and just a lick down everything — cars flip, containers fly.”

With a smirk on his face, the Jamaican said before the storm hit, he was on a call with someone back in Jamaica and was telling them about what was happening: 'Yow, listen to di storm. It just get wicked.'

“The storm start blow from after three in the morning, so everybody [was] sleeping and it catch dem off guard. Everybody batten down and in dem house and think say dem safe,” he continued.

He told the Observer that he was eventually airlifted to New Providence on a United States helicopter and had been staying there since being evacuated and before departing for Jamaica on Sunday.

Hurricane Dorian, the fourth named storm of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season according to a Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) situation report issued last Saturday, impacted the northern islands of The Bahamas from September 1 to September 3.

At the peak of strength, Dorian had sustained winds of 185 mph with gusts of up to 220 mph while making landfall in Elbow Cay, Abacos Islands, CDEMA said.

Thereafter, Dorian slowed its forward motion considerably, remaining essentially stationary over Grand Bahama from September 2 to 3, the report continued.

“Due to the prolonged and intense storm conditions, including heavy rainfall, high winds, and storm surge, damage in the aforementioned islands was catastrophic, specifically in north and central Abaco and eastern Grand Bahama,” CDEMA said.

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