Disaster preparedness minister acknowledges “it is a problem”
Abaco Chamber of Commerce has expressed concerns amid active season
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The designated $1.8 million shelter on Abaco in the event of a major storm will not be completed until the end of the year, months after the ongoing Atlantic hurricane season, which has already seen eight named storms.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe attributed the slowed pace of construction to the ongoing pandemic and surges, which have impacted construction sites throughout the country.
“It does not appear as though that will be finished before the year is out,” she said.
“That is what we know. Currently, persons have been contracted…and they are moving forward with construction.
“The concern is a legitimate one, simply because of the fact that after Abaco would have experienced such a horrific hurricane, residents there want to feel secure in knowing that they do have shelter.
“I am keeping in mind, nonetheless, that while this is under construction, we continue, particularly NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) and social services, to work in areas which we can make sure that shelters are there in the local schools, which would have received a lot of upgrades and repairs, will be utilized.”
Earlier this month, Abaco Chamber of Commerce Director Krista Albury expressed grave concern about the level of preparedness, noting that Abaco does not have sufficient shelter capacity.
She said: “A lot of people are in homes that may not be able to take a Category 1 and there is no information on when is the shelter going to open. When is the shelter going to be finished for Central Abaco?”
The minister said at this stage, the government can “only move forward with the completion of the actual center, and I hope it comes sooner rather than later”.
The Bahamas has been spared for the 2021 hurricane season thus far, though three more disturbances in the Atlantic have a 40 percent chance of development in the next five days.
The government broke ground on the project in December 2020.
At the time, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis indicated the facility would be completed by the end of May, but there were initial delays.
The project was expected to be paid for primarily by donor funding, with $1.75 million coming via gift agreements and another $75,000 being finalized.
In June, Parker-Edgecombe said she was hopeful for the project to be completed before the end of the summer months, and ideally before the hurricane season.