NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As the sun rises on the first anniversary of Hurricane Dorian’s devastating path through Grand Bahama and Abaco, many residents are still jarred by the horror of the storm and the significant damage it left in its wake.
On Grand Bahama, after nearly a month of lockdowns due to the global coronavirus pandemic and a rise in COVID-19 cases on the island, some residents said they are frustrated, overwhelmed, and their mental capacity frayed.
Deputy Prime Minister and East Grand Bahama MP acknowledged that the government’s resources have been stretched extremely thin by the sheer magnitude of the destruction on both Abaco and Grand Bahama, which has been compounded by the COVID-19 experience.
“The government has tried to do its part within the limitation of its resources; providing temporary rental assistance, food assistance, home repair assistance, and debris removal,” he said in a written statement.
“With all that has been done much still remains to be done.”
Turnquest pointed to several projects the government has planned for the island, some of which are ongoing.
He said the government is working to complete the upgrades to the Rand Memorial Hospital, the transfer of the airport to the government, a new design, and the construction of a terminal.
He said repairs to the Grand Bahama highway in the east are hoped to be started within the next month after, after several delays due to “technical and operational challenges with the asphalt plant.”
He said work still has to be done to rebuild clinics, the government complex, and the administrator’s residence, along with the restoration of community parks.
He added that there are also plans to build a new comprehensive school and hurricane shelter in High Rock.
Turnquest furthered that repairs to the government dock building in McLeans Town – which houses the police station and other public facilities – are underway.
He advised that temporary homes are being relocated to Sweetings Cay and the water supply is being restored.
“We hope to have electricity restored before long in both communities,” the deputy prime minister said.
Turnquest noted that there are also plans to erect other temporary homes to help people transition back into these communities.
Additionally, Turnquest said the government still has to finalize crown land grants so that people can rebuild on land they occupied prior to the storms.
In the aftermath of the storm, hundreds of international NGOs flocked to The Bahamas to provide aid and assistance.
While some still remain in the country in newly established satellite offices many have had to home as countries worldwide tackled the spread COVID-19.
Turnquest said NGOs such as the Rotary Clubs on Grand Bahama, church and other civic organizations, both domestic and international, have been fantastic support and resources over the last year.
“They have helped to restore homes through de-mucking exercises, donation of building materials, and construction of new roofs,” he noted.
“They are helping to put lives back together through replacement of boat engines and boat repair projects, church reconstruction projects and projects to restore potable water in communities.
“We could not do it without their invaluable assistance.”
“As we look to this next year, we look forward to the commencement of many of the projects mentioned above and completion of those already begun,” Turnquest said.
“We look forward to the restoration of our communities and the return of residents and businesses.
“Personally, we continue to pray for those families that have lost loved ones and those who would have seen their lives, work, and dreams destroyed within hours.”
Along with the economic hit on Grand Bahama, official police reports recorded 11 deaths and 22 reported missing persons on the island.
The official death count stands at 74, though the number of missing people continues to be disputed.
Hundreds of people were trapped in their homes for days waiting to be rescued, as Dorian lingered over the island.
Turnquest described the tales of Hurricane Dorian survivors as “surreal”.
Turnquest recalled that in the run-up the storm, officials traveled to every community to ensure people knew the path and strength of the storm, people were urged to evacuate the Cays and move from the shoreline in.
“Many did but unfortunately some did not and experienced unimaginable horror and loss,” he said.
“The tales of survival are surreal. Twenty-two persons either did not make it or are still unaccounted for, including persons I would have pleaded with personally to leave the afternoon before.
“It is still very vivid in my mind those faces and the last conversations as I urged families to evacuate.
“They are all gone now and I often reflect on them, their unique characters. Some were extremely loving and sweet, others very sweet but always ready to debate.
“Some were just quiet and kind. I remember the promise of a brilliant young life that I continued to try to inspire to dream for and achieve more, not to settle despite past and present circumstances. All lost.”