NASSAU, BAHAMAS – It’s been one year since Grand Bahama and Abaco residents faced the merciless beating of Hurricane Dorian.
For hundreds, their lives continue to languish in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis.
But their memories of the horrific three days, battling 200mph winds and a storm surge of 23 feet, remain fresh.
For Barronette Thomas, a resident of McLean’s Town, Grand Bahama, the loss was paramount and the tragedy still haunts her to date.
The monstrous Category 5 storm stalled over Grand Bahama for two days, ravaging residents of East End.
On the day the storm hit, Thomas’ home had been compromised.
She, along with her husband Captain Phillip Thomas Jr, and three children, Mateo, Tidal and Ramielle sought refuge in a boat.
But a tidal surge emerged and the boat capsized.
Thomas was missing for three days and had survived three nights at the mercy of the ocean.
On September 4, she was airlifted to Princess Margaret Hospital.
She never saw her husband and three children again.
Thomas’ journey of rebuilding her life since it was upheaved is set to be featured in an upcoming documentary, “Barri and the Six”.
The film, produced by Dan Tomlin and directed by Wiley Watson, was created to shed light on Thomas’ story and the people of McLean’s Town – which still remains devastated by the storm.
“When you think about The Bahamas, you think about the sun, the sand and the sea,” Thomas says at the start of the teaser.
“There’s nothing that I could say as of this point that could actually explain how devastating this island is before where this island was when Dorian hit.
“It’s like wow, what are we going to do, how are we going to get through this, how am I going to survive.”
It is estimated that 30,000 people and 9,000 homes were severely affected, with 89% of the damage being on the Abaco Islands.
The official death count stands at 74, but the missing person numbers continue to be a contentious issue, with conflicting numbers coming from officials, despite repeated attempts for clarification.
National Security Minister Marvin Dames has said police list show 279 people are still missing after Hurricane Dorian.
Dames has previously urged the public not to “get fixated” on the issue.
However, the Commissioner of Police 2020 Policing Plan tabled in Parliament in July, indicate that police recorded only 54 missing people in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
In the commissioner’s foreword, referring to the impact of the deadly storm, COP Paul Rolle notes, “In the aftermath of the storm, the police recorded 63 deaths and 32 reported missing persons in Abaco and 11 deaths and 22 reported missing persons in Grand Bahama.”
Like many of the Bahamians who lost loved ones during the storm, Thomas’ family is still considered missing.
Under the current law, there is a seven-year period before anyone can be declared dead in absentia.
Attorney General Carl Bethel had promised the government would seek to expedite this process, but families say there has been no movement on the matter.
Thomas’ intends to hire an attorney and petition the courts.