Alive but lost: In Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian survivors wonder what next

Alive but lost: In Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian survivors wonder what next

Residents wait at the airport in hopes of evacuating the island in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in
Residents wait at the airport in hopes of evacuating the island in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas, Sep 7, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Loren Elliott)

MARSH HARBOUR/NASSAU, Bahamas: Days after fleeing their crumbling home and breaking into a vacant apartment to take shelter while Hurricane Dorian rampaged over the Bahamas' Great Abaco Island, Samuel Cornish and his family caught a rescue flight to Nassau.

Asked what waited for him there, Cornish, a pastor's son was blunt: "Nothing," he said. "Just a new life."

A young man walks through a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour
A young man walks through a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas, Sep 7, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Loren Elliott)

By Sunday (Sep 8), a week after one of the strongest Caribbean hurricanes on record plowed into the archipelago nation of 400,000 people, the capital city faced a wave of thousands of evacuees fleeing hard-hit areas including Marsh Harbour in the Abacos, where some 90 per cent of the infrastructure is damaged or destroyed.

Great Abaco is littered with mounds of unused construction materials, waterlogged notebooks and Bibles, stained piles of tattered clothes, single shoes, overturned bath tubs and rotting mattresses. 

Children walk past damage in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour
Children walk past damage in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas, Sep 7, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Loren Elliott)

Dead cats and dogs are strewn throughout the wreckage while some stray animals are digging through the garbage for food and have taken up residence on the porches of destroyed homes. At least one wild pig weathered the storm, celebrating its survival by charging at two Reuters journalists.

Bahamian officials are still pulling bodies from the wreckage across the island and acknowledge that the current official death toll of 43 is likely to rise markedly.

A member of the Bahamian military assesses damage in a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurric
A member of the Bahamian military assesses damage in a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas, Sep 7, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Loren Elliott)

Some 70,000 people in need of food and shelter, according to the United Nations' World Food Programme's estimate. Interviews with evacuees this week shone light on the extent of Dorian's destruction. Survivors avoided death, but have lost homes, jobs and hospitals.

Bahamian officials acknowledged on Saturday that Nassau will strain to house all the people that need shelter.

People ride bicycles past damage in a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Mar
People ride bicycles past damage in a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas, Sep 7, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Loren Elliott)

Some institutions that had opened their doors as a place for people to ride out the storm are now trying to clear out people who have lost homes, Leonardo Cargill, of the island's Department of Social Services, told a Saturday evening news conference.

"They now understand that the people coming in, it will be long-term sheltering, and many of them are church facilities and they cannot allow that to go on," Cargill said.

TENT CITIES POSSIBLE

That has Nassau officials considering other options.

"We can look at the tent city concept and the container city concept, these are all support mechanisms to help us," Captain Stephen Russell, who heads the National Emergency Management Agency, told a news conference. 

A woman rides a bicycle past damage in a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in
A woman rides a bicycle past damage in a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas, Sep 7, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Loren Elliott)

"Jobs may be a challenge at this time but long term we can house them."

International aid was also pouring into the island nation.

The US Coast Guard and Navy were shipping in relief supplies and the US Agency for International Development said it was allocating US$2.8 million and had moved enough emergency supplies for 44,000 people to the islands.

A man walks past damage in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour
A man walks past damage in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas, Sep 7, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Loren Elliott)

The American Red Cross said it had committed an initial US$2 million to help the Bahamas recover from the hurricane, with food, water and shelter and other necessities.

The long-lived storm had made its way to Canada by Sunday, where the US National Hurricane Center said it was a still-powerful post-tropical cyclone with 130 km-per-hour winds. It was forecast to cross western Newfoundland later Sunday.

A damaged graduation photo is seen on the ground in a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurrica
A damaged graduation photo is seen on the ground in a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas, Sep 7, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Loren Elliott)

Many in hard-hit Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco complained that aid had been too slow in arriving.

"They haven’t done a thing to help us down here," shouted Tepeto Davis, a 37-year-old tile contractor who slammed on the brakes of his pickup truck and backed up to talk to reporters. 

People walk past damage in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour
People walk past damage in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas, Sep 7, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Loren Elliott)

"We are suffering out here and no one cares about us. We've had to funnel gasoline out of destroyed cars to get injured people back and forth. There’s no gas, there’s no food, no medicine, and no water."

And those who were receiving aid in Nassau worried that they were still a long way from being able to rebuild their lives.

Young men work to salvage some of their belongings in a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurri
Young men work to salvage some of their belongings in a destroyed neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas, Sep 7, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Loren Elliott)

"The government says everyone's being fed, and that's good," said Anthony Morley, 61, who fled Marsh Harbour and was staying at Breezes, a Nassau resort where local volunteers have subsidised rooms for survivors. 

"But for food I can fish. What I need is a house. I don’t have a bed, a refrigerator. I don't even have a Bible."

Source: Reuters/ic

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