Lack of “accountability” on Dorian missing persons list

Lack of “accountability” on Dorian missing persons list
Rights Bahamas president Stephanie St. Fleur

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Rights Bahamas President Stephanie St. Fleur yesterday lamented the lack of “accountability” concerning the confirmed list of missing people in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

“We should be very concerned,” she told Eyewitness News Online.

“If you lost your mother, your child or your dad — even for those who probably will never be able to find the bodies of their loved ones — I think by now we should [know]. We should have had a national day or mourning. There is no accountability at all. Like I said, I pray to God nothing like this ever happens in this country again.”

Officials have not confirmed the exact number of missing people since early October.

The government has committed to gazette the names of missing people from the storm.

Officials have also not released the identities of confirmed storm deaths.

St. Fleur also expressed concern whether officials involved in the evacuation process in the immediate aftermath of the deadly storm, documented whether storm victims had missing relatives.

She said authorities appear to have relied on families coming forward to report.

“There are many people and that’s what I’ve been doing with my team,” she said.

“We’ve been actually going to the shelters and we have people who have been helping and assisting to locate people who know that their loved one is unaccounted for and missing. I prefer to say unaccounted for and deceased. We know that they are dead because we just had a devastating hurricane with surges over 20 feet.

St Fleur said: “I don’t think they asked any of them. I don’t think they went to any of the victims to get any information from them because the first set of people who would know what happened to maybe a neighbor for friend while they tried to struggle to get out, would be the victims.”

St. Fleur said as the government has provided shelter for storms victims in New Providence, its agencies such as social services should be able to speak with them and determine the names of people missing, and the exact number of people missing at this stage after cross referencing.

In late October, Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell said reports were being made to a number of separate agencies and the government thought it prudent to cross reference before publishing that names of missing people.

At the time, he acknowledged the matter was one of urgency.

The cross-referencing experience was undertaken by the Ministry of National Security, the Minister of Social Services and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

An internal NEMA situation report, obtained by Eyewitness News Online, stated 346 people were missing two months after the storm.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the government was doing its best to keep track of the number of dead and missing people.

As he closed debate in the House of Assembly on the Disaster Reconstruction Authority Bill, 2019, the prime minister said: “It’s very difficult for us to have an exact count on the numbers of missing individuals, because you would recall that there are a lot of undocumented individuals.”

Minnis continued:“If they are undocumented, we won’t have records of them and therefore you may find that that number may fluctuate. But we are doing our best to keep count of and reporting to the nation at large as to the count, number of dead as well as number of missing.”

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames has said an official report must come from police in order for the Coroner’s Court to issue a death certificate.

The death toll as a result of the storm stands at 69.