NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of National Security Marvin Dames yesterday maintained that the number of missing people from Hurricane Dorian will continue to fluctuate as police investigations proceed more than nine months later.
Speaking to the media in the foyer of the House of Assembly, Dames suggested the Royal Bahamas Police Force did not have all of the relevant information initially.
“They had snippets of it,” he said.
“Do you blame the police for it? No. What happened is that you had tremendous [challenges].
“Thousands of people who would have been displaced, people [were] in centers; people [were] transported to Nassau; and other Family Islands; and people [were] transported to the United States.
“Communications was totally disrupted and disabled. You couldn’t make those connections and these are some of the variables that really impacted on missing. And then you had some areas [which] was collecting information, but what they did was in addition to the reported missing persons, they also included people who needed food, people who needed shelter.
“But despite that, you had to investigate every one of those and that is what the police was seeking to do.”
Dorian laid waste to portions of Abaco and Grand Bahamas in September 2019, displacing thousands.
Last month, Dames said number of people recorded as missing in the aftermath of the record storm stood at 279.
The commissioner of police’s policing plan for 2020, which Dames tabled in the House of Assembly last week, indicated the number of missing people related to the storm stood at 54 — a figure former Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson provided in January.
Asked whether this was another instance of a contradiction of the figure he recently advised, Dames said numbers often fluctuate with disasters.
“Were mistakes made, I mean could we have done things differently, of course we could have,” he said.
“Have we learnt from this experience, 100 percent.
“But I can’t keep fighting fluctuations in the numbers because the numbers will continue to fluctuate, trust me. That’s how these events work, okay. I can give you a number today and tomorrow someone else can give you another number. Do we have to clean that up, of course. That’s why we are working to do that. That is why we are working to centralize all of this information.
“You know, there were some people of there who said the information was turned over to the police. By law that who ought to have the information. That’s why we are here now, where we are, because the police did not initially have the information — all the information.”
The minister stressed the police force has nothing to hide, adding it appeared as though the media were not satisfied with the previous answer.
“That’s a problem, but you are going to get the same response from me,” Dames said.
“It ain’t gone change.”
Dames said the obligation of the government is to the people of The Bahamas.
He added: “If you are suggesting something is amiss, I am going to say this to you and that will be my final response: that those men and women out there are doing their utmost to bring some order to what was a very chaotic and very difficult situation for many family members, and I am going to respect those families, who still have loved ones out there and we know who they are, and we continue to work with them.”