NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Rights Bahamas President Stephanie St Fleur pointed to the government’s repatriation efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian as the reason why there are still unclaimed victims in a refrigerated trailer in Abaco.
Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said last week that 50 unclaimed storm victims are expected to be buried within three to four weeks.
Sands told Eyewitness News that none of the stored remains matched DNA samples taken from purported relatives.
He said despite claims from families that their relatives are among the victims, there is “no DNA or forensic evidence to support that”.
In recent interview, St Fleur said she believes the government’s actions in the wake of the deadly storm “led to what we have now, unclaimed bodies.”
“I think after the rescue and recovery, we should have had a national day to mourn and have a memorial,” she said.
“And then from there have the families come to claim and match up to see if any of the diseased are blood relatives.
“Once that process would have been done, then they could have went on with deporting or so but to do it before and you still have bodies on ice, wasn’t the right thing to do in my opinion.”
Dorian pounded the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama between September 1-3, claiming the lives of a confirmed 70 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.
The government temporarily suspended the deportation of immigrants in the affected areas after the storm.
However, weeks later those repatriations continued, resulting in the government deporting hundreds of people to Haiti.
It remains unclear exactly how many storm victims were deported following the storm.
However, St. Fleur believes many individuals who were deported had loved ones who were unaccounted for.
She said her team took a list of names from evacuees of missing loved ones in the days immediately following the storm and submitted those lists – over 30 pages of names – to the National Emergency Management Agency.
“To date, I haven’t gotten any feedback pertaining to anyone on those lists of the unaccounted for,” she said.
St Fleur suggested there was no recourse for storm victims who were deported to Haiti.
“They will never know, and I just have to pray for them because there’s nothing like not knowing; not knowing or not seeing your loved one,” she said.
“[They are never going] to have that day to say goodbye and to mourn and to help you at least cope and move past the tragedy of the storm and move past the tragedy of losing your loved one and you’re never going to be able to see that person again.
“That is what they are going to have to live with the rest of their lives.”