NASSAU, BAHAMAS- Opposition Leader Philip Davis yesterday called the proposed amendments to the Disaster Preparedness and Response Act a publicity stunt to offset negative commentary over the government’s management of Hurricane Dorian.
In his contribution to the bill, the Cat Island, Rum Cay, and San Salvador MP accused the Minnis administration of failing to act on information provided by the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC).
Davis cited three distinctive phases of disaster management: preparedness, communication during the storm, and post-storm mitigation, recovery and restoration.
He said the government has failed miserably at each one, and insisted he had every right to speak out on behalf of the Bahamian people.
Davis said: “Indeed, the response of the government has taken on the semblance of the characteristic of Hurricane Dorian: it has been slow; it was erratic, rudderless and it has been disastrous.”
“The Bill seems to include a compendium of the best ideas from a group chat either in Cabinet or at a stew fish gathering by a breakfast bunch,” Davis continued.
“Obviously, there are good elements; but, in fact, those are already in place in law.”
Davis suggested the government turn its focus to ammeding other relevant laws, like death certificates for missing people.
He suggested the law should be amended to allow for people declared missing from Hurricane Dorian to be presumed dead after the passage of six months from the date that the person was last seen.
Under the current law, there is a seven-year period before anyone can be declared dead in absentia.
Attorney General Carl Bethel has previously said the government will expedite the death certificates of people lost during the storm.
As for the use of PDC data, the center projected that more than 70,000 people would be impacted by tropical cyclone winds during the passage of Hurricane Dorian.
The organization also mapped out several areas where the storm surge and strong winds were expected to hit.
“The government did what was required, got an expert to help us in determining the path of the storm, the possible impact on it, and what the results can possibly be,” Davis noted.
“The experts came from the Pacific Disaster Center.
“And they provided me the three sheets of their forecast, that I say if the government had it, then they would have been very negligent in not adhering to what was said.”
Davis, who tabled to the PDC’s three-page projections, pointed to the evacuation zones identified by the organization.
“When you look at this for example, Marsh Harbour, Dundas Town, Murphy Town are all identified and, in that area, where we lost the most lives, as an evacuation zone.”
Davis furthered some of the shelters designated by the government as safe, were forecasted by the PDC to be impacted by the storm surge.
“If we were privy to that expert advice, obviously the government would have been as well,” he said.
A back and forth erupted with Davis and Carmichael MP Desmond Bannister over the source and credibility of the document.
Davis maintained that it was provided to him by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), whose stamp was also on the document.
For his part, House Speaker Halson Moultrie said: “From what I see here, especially being a former chief meteorologist with responsibility for hurricane forecasting in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, I don’t know why NEMA would even accept this document from the Pacific Disaster Center, when we are talking about the Atlantic [Ocean]”.
The Bahamas Government, through NEMA, has partnered with the PDC for the last decade, including support fora brand new National Emergency Operations Center, the implementation of policies and protocols, and staff training. It has helped to implement the policies and protocols to effectively utilize this resource; to improve communication between island
In June, NEMA and the PDC launched the first National Disaster Preparedness Baseline Assessment – a year-long program to measure disaster preparedness and risk.