Duncombe: prepared for the worst, but praying for the best
FREEPORT, GRAND BAHAMA — Deacon Donald Duncombe, 58, struggled to hold back tears as he expressed hope that three of his parishioners, still missing since Hurricane Dorian laid waste to parts of Grand Bahama and Abaco, would be found.
“We were helping some parishioners who live in an area called Heritage, which is off Settlers Bay and I mean you will break down and cry,” said Duncombe, looking away to regain composure.
“Almost every house, you are talking about four to five feet of water.
“We are still missing three of our parishioners. We haven’t heard from them and people are saying they are not there.
“I am still hoping and praying that they are going to be okay.”
He added, “I am prepared for the worst, but praying for the best.”
Duncombe, of St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church, said his faith has allowed to him continue to hold out hope, but admitted that there could be a grim reality to confront soon.
As of Monday, 1,300 people remained missing following the devastating storm, though the number was expected to decrease as evacuees in shelters are cross referenced with the missing persons list and other records of displaced residents.
Speaking to Eyewitness News at the Freeport Harbour, Duncombe said he was also tasked with identifying a body of a storm victim as the family could not bear to do so.
He said, “Every now and then I break down. The training [as a deacon] did not tell you how to really deal with this. I mean we were trained with how to deal with death and everything else, but every time someone dies, I cry with the family just like anyone else. That’s me.”
The community leader opined that the trauma from the storm will remain with residents for years to come.
He said, “I think we are going to have a serious mental health problem. You pray and every time we sit as a family and talk and try to find something to laugh about, but at the end of the day it is the faith and trust in God that it is in his hands, regardless of what anybody says. Even though, we don’t have any control of it, we realize there is another day.
“Most of the times I can talk, but when you start to think about it [it’s rough].
“I looked at the folks we were helping out and I could see the wife, she is having challenges. What she is doing is continuing to work and she is talking to other people, which is a good thing because as long as you can talk and get it out, that’s good.
“When you hear their story; they broke out of window and happened to get out at the same time a payloader was going by. I mean the odds of that happening.
“The pay-loader had to come right up to the window for them to jump in. When they were jumping in, she got her foot damaged and her husband got his foot damaged. They had a 70-year-old aunt that they had to help into the payloader and they were in the bucket going out into the storm to evacuate.”
Despite the damage to his home, Dumcombe has continued to assist with relief efforts, taking pallets of supplies from the Freeport Harbour in conjunction with National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and defence force personnel and delivering them to the various settlements in Grand Bahama.
Duncombe, a resident of South Bahamia, said the destruction brought upon Grand Bahama by Hurricane Dorian was hard to fathom, saying it was “beyond anything I have seen”.
Duncombe his wife, two children, cousin and several friends rode out the storm in their home.
They were among the fortunate, despite the home sustaining damage and flooding.
Dorian, a Category 5 storm, made landfall in Abaco around midday on September 1.
The storm lingered over the two islands for almost 70 hours, destroying communities, businesses and public infrastructure to the tune of an estimated $7 billion.
Thousands have been displaced as a result of the storm.
Abaco resembles a war zone, while parts Grand Bahama bear no resemblance to the tourist destination it once was.