NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Some eight months after Hurricane Dorian debilitated the island, Central & South Abaco MP James Albury yesterday said the situation is “still dire”.
“I have not come to this honorable house today to sugarcoat anything,” Albury said, during his contribution to the 2020/2021 budget debate at the evening sitting of Parliament yesterday.
The reality is, the situation in Abaco is still dire.
“There is still so much to do, and so many people to help.
“And I would like to reassure my constituents that I remain resolved and determined to do everything possible in my power to rebuild and restore our home island.”
Dorian slammed into Abaco and Grand Bahama on September 1, making a slow three-day crawl through the islands with wind gusts over 220 mph and storm surges up to 25 ft.
Officials have estimated that some 30,000 people and 9,000 homes were severely affected, with 89 percent of the damage occurring on the Abaco Islands.
The storm claimed the lives of 63 people in Abaco and 13 people in Grand Bahama.
Last month, the remains of 55 victims were buried in the Central Pines Public Cemetery in numbered sealed coffins amid staunch protest over how the government has managed the process.
In a letter to the prime minister, Albury requested a formal inquiry into the process that led to the burial, noting it was critical to bring closure for Abaconians but to guide the handling of any future mass-casualty event.
He noted his letter did not reflect poorly on the efforts of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority, who coordinated the burials along with the Bahamas Christian Council, and Abaco Christian Council.
Residents on the island have said their biggest concern remains feeding those who remain on the island – some of whom have not worked in nearly nine months.
Albury yesterday admitted that there are still “major challenges”.
“Water, electricity, educational institutions, and reliable shelters are still essential issues in areas of Abaco,” he said.
“To my constituents, I want to be categorically clear: your concerns are my concerns, not just as your representative, but as an Abaconian.”
The Central & South Abaco MP outlined several initiatives being undertaken in his constituency, including a $3.2 million project for the repair and restoration of the Dune Road in Elbow Cay; the repair and repaving of the Ernest Dean Highway; a new $1.5 million imperial gallon water storage tank, and the creation of murals damaged tanks.
He noted that $804,000 has been allocated by Water and Sewerage for the new pumping station for Marsh Harbour, a new commercial operations and staff compound for Treasure Cay, the two solar facility buildings and remedial works on all Water and Sewage buildings in Abaco.
He further advised that WSC executed a contract for extensive refurbishment and repair of its water network in the Marsh Harbour area, valuing over $1.4 million.
Albury also said the Small Business Development Centre has helped approximately 60 businesses across Abaco to start or restart operations.
He urged residents on the island to “keep working” and “keep striving”.
“Our resolve has been tested, but Mr. Speaker, we refuse to break. The Abaco spirit is not a fragile one,” Albury said.
“Each and every day Mr. Speaker I continue to be awed and incredibly proud to represent such a hardworking, resilient, and passionate constituency.”