FREEPORT, Bahamas – A week after devastating Hurricane Dorian passed slowly through the northern Bahamas, residents of Freeport – the country’s second largest city – are working hard to avoid despair and trying to get back to normal despite the lack of electricity and scarcity of running water.
The islanders have barely gotten past the terror brought by Dorian’s winds of up to 295 kilometers (183 miles) per hour as it raked across Abaco and Grand Bahama islands last Sunday, hanging around in the area for a full 36 hours as a Category 5 storm, the most powerful ranking on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale.
Don Cornish, the official on Grand Bahama for the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency, told EFE on Sunday that the situation is “complicated,” but he added that the recovery process is progressing after the area was hit by a catastrophe that “few places in the world” could have survived.
He said that recovery will take a long time due to the extensive damage wrought by the storm, adding that some zones will take years to get fully back to normal, although in certain areas like Freeport “electricity and ... hot water” will be restored by next week.
He said that fortunately the greatest damage occurred in the eastern part of the island, where few people live, and not in the west, where the city of some 50,000 is located.
Because of that, Grand Bahama Island, which was less affected than Abaco Island, suffered “only” eight deaths – according to the official death toll so far – although 20 people are still missing and the number of fatalities admittedly is expected to rise and to be “very bad.”
Meanwhile, the Bahamas government is continuing its work and international aid – especially food, water, electric generators and basic supplies – is arriving and the survivors are doing their part to help get things back to normal.
The residents of the town of Heritage, on Grand Bahama, are working to clear away the wreckage and clean up their homes, which were flooded by the storm surge even though they are far from the sea.
Just like her mother, Destiny McGregor had to spend two days on top of furniture that remained above the “extremely cold” water that flooded their home.
“The worst was the night, because I wanted to see (what was happening),” Destiny told EFE, adding that it was impossible for Heritage to be any darker than it was on that night.
Both Destiny and her mother are cleaning up their house as best they can, but the water rose quickly there during the storm and they had to wait for 36 hours before being rescued by a large truck, the only vehicle that could get to the village.
A little farther along, Markedia Mills and her family are working to try and clean things up after their home was devastated by the storm.
She says she doesn’t know when they will be able to actually reoccupy their house, where a strong odor emanates from the soaked carpet in several rooms and where they were only able to salvage one or two pictures and a large hanging mirror.
Despite the desolation, members of the humble community are – bit by bit – getting things into better order, piling up the trash and unusable items in front of their houses so that authorities can take them away whenever such service is restored.
Not far away, workers at the devastated Freeport airport have been working to reopen one of the terminals ruined when the seawater rose some five meters (yards) and flooded the area.
Patrielle Smith told EFE that in a week everything will be cleaned up, including the remains of a small plane that was washed and blown into the terminal near the baggage claim area.
Smith said it will not take long to get the airport running again since, if worse comes to worse, all the procedures can be performed manually and – in the areas where the roof no longer exists – tents can be set up.
Some people told EFE that they can’t wait to leave the Bahamas and start a new life in the United States, including Linda Divine, who was waiting with her children ages 4 and 12 for something to happen that will allow her to travel to the US, despite the fact that they don’t have visas.
However, Donald Duncombe, the paster of the St. Vicent the Paul Catholic Church on the outskirts of Freeport, told EFE that it’s vital for people not to emigrate in the face of adversity.
During a break from his clean-up work at the church, which was also flooded during the storm, Duncombe said that with each hurricane that affects the Bahamas more people leave, asking if they go “Who’s going to rebuild the country?”