NASSAU, BAHAMAS — An 11-member Bahamas-based USAID team of disaster experts has been activated in The Bahamas, according to a US Embassy official.
“The US and NEMA cooperate of disaster preparedness, year-round, including training on disaster risk reduction, school safety, shelter management and damage assessment,” the official told Eyewitness News.
“In anticipation of Hurricane Isaias, a team of 11 Bahamas-based USAID disaster experts was activated in The Bahamas to liaise with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and humanitarian partners to help assess the impact and humanitarian need if required following the passage of Hurricane Isaias.”
Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis urged West End and other coastal communities to evacuate due to the storm’s projected impact on West Grand Bahama.
He told Eyewitness News emergency support function (ESF) #1 was moving through southern Grand Bahama to assist with evacuations.
In a statement today, the NEMA Director Captain Stephen Russell said the organization continues to closely monitor Isaias as it moves over The Bahamas.
Russell confirmed CDEMA (Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency) and the US Coast Guard were on standby to assist, once a request was made.
He said: “And the United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance is also on standby to assist, once request is made for assistance.”
He said NEMA is also receiving technical assistance from the Pacific Disaster Centre at the University of Hawaii.
As of 2pm, Isaias was located 115 miles south of Freeport, Grand Bahama, and 140 miles southeast of Fort Lauderdale.
It had decreased in strength and now had maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour, down from the 85 miles per hour winds this morning.
It continues to move northwest at 12 miles per hour.
The storm is expected to continue northwestward, followed by a north-northwest motion late Sunday.
On the forecast track, the center of Isaias is expected to move over the straits of Florida early Sunday morning.
Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the center of the storm, while tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 115 miles.
Wind gusts of 49 miles per hour were observed in New Providence, according to Doppler radar data.
At last report, there were 135 people in shelters across the country as Hurricane Isaias continues to track through the northwestern Bahamas.
Lewis confirmed the emergency operations center was activated in Grand Bahama on Friday at 11am.
He said: “This readiness is reflected in New Providence, Abaco, Cat Island, Andros, Eleuthera and all other Family Islands throughout the country.”
New Providence has fared well during the storm thus far, according to NEMA.
Forty-nine people were being housed in the 10 shelters across New Providence.
Abaco Island administrator Terrece Bootle-Laing confirmed 28 people sought shelter in the central district. Meanwhile, 50 people had evacuated to the BAMSI shelter in Andros, while three people had gone to the Nicholl’s Town shelter.
South Andros and Mangrove Cay reported strong winds and heavy rain. There were five people in shelters on the Berry Islands.
Cat Island, Exuma, Long Island, Inagua and Acklins have seen improved conditions and there was no significant damage.
North Long Island, Mayaguana, Andros, Cat Island and Ragged Island have experienced power outages, however.
As conditions improve, power will be restored to these islands, Lewis said.