NASSAU, BAHAMAS –Some 75 families remain in The Farm shantytown on Abaco in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, and are stalling government efforts clear debris in that community, according to Public Works Minister Desmond Bannister yesterday.
Bannister said contractors commissioned to clear down the debris from the shantytowns on Abaco are waiting to get into The Farm but can’t because of occupants.
He did not indicate how the government planned to address the matter during his contribution to debate on the Disaster Reconstruction Authority Bill 2019.
“There is some challenge with The Farm area because there are some 75 families that still live in that area,” Bannister said.
“I know the government is looking seriously at what it can do.
“It cannot be in their best interest, in the interest of their health, in the interest of their wellbeing, for them to remain in that place.
“And so I know the government will take such action as it can, to ensure that that area is also going to be cleared at some stage.
He added: “We are going to do the best that we can. The contractors are ready to get in, but they cannot get in there while families are there.”
Dorian pounded the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama between September 1-3, claiming the lives of a confirmed 67 people — and displacing thousands, many of whom resided in shantytown communities in Abaco.
The Category 5 storm destroyed the two largest of the six shantytowns on the island – The Mudd and the Peas.
Following the storm, the government issued a cease order with immediate effect for The Mudd, The Peas, Sandbanks and The Farm in order to prevent anyone from building or developing in those communities.
The order is valid for six months but may be extended for further periods of up to six months as required.
In September, the government announced that several contracts were awarded for the cleanup of shantytowns on Abaco.
Bannister noted yesterday that The Peas have been fully cleared and only needs to be fenced in.
He also noted that The Mudd is 25 percent clear and Sandbanks is 80 percent clear.
“One of the critical issues, first of all, is to ensure that the shantytowns, some of them which have debris piled up, up to 20 feet in some instances, be fully cleared,” Bannister said.
“It’s a health issue, sanitation issue. It impacts the community in ways that you could not imagine, and so one of the first things we sought to do is ensure that those areas are cleared.”
Last year, a Supreme Court injunction barred the government from moving forward with plans to evict residents from shantytowns in New Providence.
The injunction handed down by Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson also blocked the government from demolishing shantytown structures.
The judicial review of the issue is pending.
The government gave shantytown residents of New Providence until August 10, 2018, to evacuate, and residents of shantytowns in Abaco, until July 31, 2019 to leave.
In late October, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said he had instructed Attorney General Carl Bethel to make an application to the court to have the injunction lifted that would allow the government to demolish those shantytowns.
Attorneys are expected to convene for a mention hearing on Friday that is expected to determine the way forward for numerous interlocutory matters, Eyewitness News Online was told.