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Bahamas Uncensored: Hurricane Aftermath
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Posted by:Sep 5th 2004, 03:56:41 pm
Fig Tree News TeamThis was the week that was Hurricane Frances. The entire country has been consumed with nothing else. It seemed by the start of the week that perhaps the entire country might be destroyed. The hurricane was almost 500 miles across, the entire length of The Bahamas. It was said to be packing winds of 144 miles per hour. One could only expect the worse. Our building codes were set to withstand 120 mile per hour winds. That code was changed within recent times to 150 miles per hour, but most houses were built on the old standard. Would we survive?

The country has survived. But it is extremely battered. The country’s financial and governmental nerve center has survived well. The damage in Nassau is mainly confined to downed trees debris all around, some isolated local flooding, and some slight damage to buildings. There was one loss of life, due to negligence when an 18-year-older went to check on his home generator and ended up being electrocuted and dead. There was another reported death, this one by drowning in West End. This too appeared to be a situation where the people of that settlement had been warned by their representative Obie Wilchcombe to leave the settlement because of the severe flooding that was involved, and many chose to stay. There also reports of injuries.

The rest of the country suffered a shock to its infrastructure. The roads have been washed out in some islands. Many of the island communities have been flooded. You may check below for an island-by-island report as of Saturday 4th September at 6 p.m.

The Prime Minister has taken this matter as a personal crusade. It is a risky strategy, but one, which he has to take, given what he recognized was the criticism of his administration that decisions are not made quickly enough by him. He himself as this is being uploaded is flying around the southern Bahamas to see for himself the damage, which the hurricane wrought, and to lend some comfort to the people in the islands. Other Ministers are going as well. The Deputy Prime Minister will travel to Eleuthera and carry with her the Minister of Financial Services and the Minster for Immigration. Each will visit with a particular community in that island. The PM’s team plans to stop in at Mayaguana, Crooked Island and Acklins, San Salvador and Cat Island before returning to Nassau.

But the real problems are Grand Bahama and Abaco. The capital was cut off from those islands in the north late Saturday evening when there was catastrophic failure of the cable link between the island of Grand Bahama and New Providence. This is Batelco's main outlet to the outside world. Long distance calls immediately began to fail. The usual apologies by Batelco. But it seems that this time it was not the cable itself which was cut on three occasions in the last five years, but the equipment in Eight Mile Rock where it was reported that the roof of the facility in Eight Mile Rock of Batelco collapsed. This can cause havoc with the financial sector. No doubt, a team of politicians and experts will have to go into Grand Bahama as soon as possible today to find out what the situation is on the ground.

The Bahamas Electricity Corporation is struggling to get the lights back on in New Providence. It has only been just over 48 hours since the all clear was given but people are restless. The Corporation does not seem to have the public relations savvy that the telephone company has to keep people informed of what they are doing. Many places in New Providence remain in darkness.

Now that the winds have subsided, and the hurricane has moved into the United States, the clean up begins. It is important for us to do a post mortem on the storm. The infrastructure of the country should have been able to sustain a hit of the kind that we experienced. The Batelco failure is a serious failure. And many times during the storm, both the police, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) were saying that they could not hear from a particular island. That is inexcusable in this day and time.

Bahamians were generally happy with themselves about how this whole thing turned out. The radio stations kept getting congratulations from politicians and the listeners alike throughout the ordeal, congratulating them on what a fine job they did on hurricane coverage. There was the alarmist Darrell Miller who was criticized for frightening people out of their wits, but his supporters said that his sense of alarm was entertaining and helpful. There was the more calm Wendell Jones who seemed to live off the plaudits that he was better than the ZNS that rejected him so long ago. Then there were the usual recourses to religious fervour, with many saying that this showed that God had a plan for The Bahamas, and that the hurricane was designed to bring us together, and that we ought to be thankful to God for sparing us from the hurricane.

The Bahamas has a long week ahead of it. We are particularly concerned about the people of Grand Bahama. Theirs will probably be the longest week of all.

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