Long, hard road to recovery, says PM Minnis

Long, hard road to recovery, says PM Minnis

Associate editor — news/health

Friday, September 13, 2019

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NASSAU, The Bahamas — Painting a grim picture of the reality on the ground in Hurricane Dorian-affected islands here, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis in a national address late Wednesday admitted that besides physical resources required to rebuild and recover, the country will also need spiritual resources.

“Quite a number of those who lived through Hurricane Dorian are experiencing nightmares and other trauma. There is tremendous physical, emotional, and psychological trauma. The road to recovery and healing will be long and hard,” the prime minister said.

He disclosed that he met with The Bahamas Christian Council and has asked its members to plan a national prayer service. Minnis said, too, that there is to be a national day of mourning.

“Flags are to be flown at half mast on all public buildings to mourn our dead,” he said, adding that Hurricane Dorian is a “historic tragedy”.

According to the prime minister, who up to Wednesday travelled to North Abaco, including a number of the Abaco cays, as part of his assessment of relief and recovery efforts on affected islands, much of Abaco no longer exists.

“Flood waters in the streets made them appear like the ocean. Concrete structures were turned to dust, as if a massive bomb had exploded with atomic force. There are no words efficient to describe this tragedy,” he said in Wednesday night's address.

He also said East Grand Bahama has been laid to waste.

“Freeport, West End, and much of Grand Bahama experienced horrible destruction. No living Bahamian has ever seen anything like this in their lifetime,” the prime minister said.

Referencing reports of the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency, Minnis said Hurricane Dorian is the strongest Atlantic hurricane documented to directly impact a land mass since records began.

“Hurricane Dorian affected the northern-western Bahamas islands for an approximate total of 68 hours,” he said, adding that it was planted over Grand Bahama for about 30 hours.

With a death toll of 50 people on both affected islands so far, Minnis said the number is expected to “significantly increase”.

Acknowledging that the grief countrymen will bear begins with the families who have lost loved ones, the prime minister told the nation that efforts to collect those who died in the storm are being ramped up.

“We will provide accurate, timely information on the loss of life, as it is available. We will first and foremost put the priority on notifying families and giving them the help they need to grieve,” he said.

In updating the nation of the combined efforts of his Government and the international community, the prime minister said the focus has now shifted from search and rescue to recovery, stabilisation and restoration.

“Right after the all-clear was given by the Meteorological Department, we began mobilising our search, rescue and recovery efforts. We deployed security, food, water, and other resources as quickly as was possible.

“Once the all-clear was given so that first responders were not put at risk, we asked the United States Coast Guard to immediately go into action, using their helicopters and other resources,” he said, adding that after the impact of the hurricane, the Government deployed Bahamian rescue and security personnel from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

“There is sufficient food and water on the ground in Abaco and Grand Bahama for those who need assistance; thousands have already been evacuated. We are aggressively working to set up secure and appropriate temporary housing and shelters, on both islands, for those who lost their homes.

“Security personnel on the ground have stabilised the security situation on Abaco. There are a combined 900 defence and police force officers on the ground in Grand Bahama and Abaco, including reserves,” he said. “We are also being assisted by the defence force officers from Caricom, which, when fully deployed, will total approximately 220 security personnel.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also in The Bahamas, according to Minnis.

He said because of the magnitude of the devastation, The Bahamas could not and cannot face the tragedy alone.

He therefore thanked the American people and Government, lauding President Donald Trump as a “true friend to The Bahamas”, the United Kingdom, Caricom, the Royal Dutch Navy, and the Canadian Government, for coming to the 700-island archipelago's aid “during this dark hour”.

He said too that the United Nations is helping and that its secretary general is expected to arrive in the capital tomorrow.

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