“Our mission and focus now is search, rescue and recovery”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As Hurricane Dorian continued to lash the Abacos and Grand Bahama with hurricane-force winds, more than 48 hours after the catastrophic storm made landfall in Elbow Cay, Abaco, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis appealed to the nation to unite with a “singular focus on helping our brothers and sisters in need”.
The prime minister, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis, along with other government officials, and U.S. Charge d’Affaires Stephanie Bowersboarded a United States Coast Guard aircraft this afternoon to perform a flyover of Abaco, though a tropical storm warning remain in effect for that island.
The U.S Coast Guard continued to fly in residents from the impacted islands to New Providence this afternoon.
Those injured were transported to Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH).
As of yesterday, 21 people injured in Abaco were transported to PMH, according to the prime minister.
Addressing the nation from the National Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMA) headquarters on Gladstone Road yesterday afternoon, Minnis asked that when the weather permits and transportation resumes, those who have not been displaced, open their homes to friends and family who are in need, given the extensive destruction reported.
He called for compassion at “this most difficult hour”.
“As Bahamians we must unite with the singular focus of helping our brothers and sisters in need,” the prime minister said. “We will provide information as to where and how individuals, families and corporate citizens can donate resources and funds to assist those in need.”
While noting that many are prepared to donate, Minnis urged donators to ensure their contributions are made to reputable charitable organizations with records of service.
“I pledge to you that your government will bring to bear every resource possible and all of our collective energy to assist those in the devastated areas,” Minnis said.
“There are many difficult days, weeks and months ahead of us as people and as a country.
“We must stay united as a people to bring immediate assistance, to bring hope, to bring recovery and to rebuild lives.
The storm continued to batter Grand Bahama this morning, moving only seven miles northwest of the island in an eight-hour period.
As of 2 a.m., the storm had dropped to a Category 3 storm, but packed winds in excess of 120 miles per hour, according to the Department of Meteorology.
By 2 p.m. the storm dropped further to a Category 2 with 110 sustained winds of 110 miles-per-hour. It was located 65 miles east of Grand Bahama, but meteorologists said tropical storm force winds could still be experienced for another 24 to 48 hours.
NEMA’s command center has been inundated with calls from residents in Grand Bahama for evacuation.
Those efforts continue in Abaco with teams comprised of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the United States Coast Guard, Eyewitness News understands.
Residents in New Providence, with relatives in Grand Bahama, were seeking to make contact with emergency personnel to direct them to loved ones in need of rescue.
As it relates to those in distress, the prime minister said, “We know that there are a number of people in Grand Bahama who are in serious distress. We will provide relief and assistance as soon as possible after the MET Department has given the all-clear.
“I strongly urge the residents of Grand Bahama to remain indoors and to be as safe as possible until the all-clear is given by the appropriate authorities,” he said.
“Bahamians across our country and throughout the world are praying for you.”
Minnis advised that the United States Coast Guard was on the ground in Abaco and had rescued a number of people injured.
Yesterday, Minnis confirmed that there were five deaths in Abaco.
He said teams will go to the island as soon as possible for a “full and proper assessment and identification”.
“We are going to be very careful in reporting such information, which should only come from official channels and be verified by the Royal Bahamas Police Force,” the prime minister said.
“We need to be sensitive in reporting such information and will do so as soon as we have reliable information.
“The initial reports from Abaco is that the devastation is unprecedented and extensive.
“They are deeply worrying.
“The images and videos we are seeing are heartbreaking.
“Many homes, businesses and other buildings have been destroyed.
“There is an extraordinary amount of flooding and damage to infrastructure.”
As of yesterday afternoon, New Providence, Andros and Eleuthera have been given the all-clear.
However, the prime minister cautioned residents on those islands to be “careful and diligent”, noting that there was flooding in a number of communities on those islands.
He advised that shelters were open in New Providence for those whose homes were flooded.
According to Minnis, assessment teams were on stand-by to conduct initial assessments and reconnaissance of affected areas as soon as possible.
These teams comprised of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Social Services, Ministry of Works, NEMA and the Bahamas Red Cross.
“There are also international and regional governmental and NGO teams ready to help to assess the human needs and damage,” he said.
Other critical measures were being put in place to respond “as rapidly as possible to reduce any suffering and pain”.
The prime minister also announced that a coordinator will be announced as soon as possible for a Hurricane Relief and Recovery Committee.
Minnis discouraged residents from circulating or issuing reports or images that are not true.
He said this is not the time to add to the anxiety of people affected or their loved ones who were in The Bahamas and abroad.
“Please do not add to their anxiety and worries,” he said.
“This is not the time to be creating mischief and playing on the emotions others, especially those who are vulnerable at this time.