Public urged to help Bahamas
Bahamians living in Bermuda have lost family members after the worst hurricane in the country's history devastated parts of the island chain, a Bahamian-born Bermudian lawyer said yesterday.
Simone Smith-Bean, the wife of former Progressive Party leader Marc Bean, said: “It looks like the aftermath of an atomic bomb. There are hundreds still missing. They haven't even started moving the rubble.”
Ms Smith Bean was speaking after Category 5 Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas last Sunday and battered the Abaco islands and Grand Bahama, for two days. She said some of her own relatives had swam for their lives after a huge storm surge inundated Marsh Harbour, the capital of Abaco, and had taken refuge in a church, with hundreds of other refugees from the storm.
Now about 100 Bermuda residents with family ties to the Bahamas have joined forces to send urgent relief to the stricken country. Ms Smith-Bean said: “Two or three are saying they have lost family. They are my people and I can't leave them behind.”
Ms Smith-Bean said she had tracked friends and relatives in the country on social media and shared their location coordinates with the United States Coast Guard, who are part of the massive rescue operation. She added: “Now it's about sending relief.”
She said Bahamians in Bermuda had teamed with the We Care Project, a disaster relief charity, to send emergency supplies to the affected islands. Her law offices in Melbourne House on Parliament Street in Hamilton were being used to collect basic supplies from tents to canned goods and storage containers.
Bermudian-based drinks giant Bacardi said the firm had donated $1 million in cash and other assistance to the international relief operation.
Bacardi, said it would work with charities and the Bahamian Government “to ensure that this cash donation provides immediate and long-term assistance to local relief agencies in their efforts to support the islands and communities that need it most”.
Bacardi was based in the Bahamas for a short period after the family-owned firm was forced out of its homeland, Cuba, after the 1959 revolution, and it made rum in the Bahamas for 50 years.
A spokeswoman added: “The company has also organised an employee drive to collect much needed items for those in need in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.”
Bacardi has also sent a link to its global workforce where they can donate cash to aid organisation Mercy Corps.
Guilden Gilbert, a Bermudian who lives in Nassau, the country's capital, said: “There are still a lot of people unaccounted for.
“Storm surges were in excess of 30 feet; one report I saw had storm surge at nearly 40 feet.
“That storm surge would be absolutely devastating. There's just no protection whatsoever. There's just nothing that can be done to slow that down.”
Mr Gilbert said Nassau, on New Providence Island, had suffered heavy rain and flooding, but got off lightly, in comparison to other parts of the country.
He said Freeport, on Grand Bahama and the second largest city in the country, had been badly hit. He explained: “When you look at Freeport, it's somewhat like New Orleans, Louisiana, in that it sits below sea level.
“Coming from the south, there is some protection, but on the north side, there is no protection.
“That's why the airport is under water. Once the water goes over the airport, there's nothing to keep it out of Freeport.”
Mr Gilbert said Bahamian authorities had warned that the death toll, more than 20 people so far, was sure to rise.
He added: “We don't know what that number is going to be, but the reality is that it's more than likely it will be significant, based on the conditions that exist, the number of houses that were completely destroyed and the number of people that have been reported missing.
Myra Dill, married to former United Bermuda Party minister and lawyer, Jerome Dill, said the couple considered their house in Nassau their “second home”.
Ms Dill, who had spoken to healthcare workers in the Bahamas, left stunned at the storm's ferocity, said: “I have never seen anything like this from a hurricane.
“It's devastation. Complete and utter devastation. I wouldn't want anybody to have to live through this sort of thing.
“Bermuda is in a position where it can help out their neighbour island, and that's something we should be doing.
Ms Dill warned: “It's very early days. It's not going to be a matter of weeks before things are back to usual. It's going to be years.”
The Bermuda Government said yesterday it had been asked by businesses, organisations and members of the public how they could help.
A government spokesman said the Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation team had launched efforts to ensure aid was directed to the appropriate agencies.
The spokesman added that cash donations should be made to the Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund or the Bermuda Red Cross.
Police warned residents last night to check the credentials of relief organisations looking for funds and remain vigilant against social media scams.
• To donate directly to the Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund, the public can make deposits to BNTB Bank Account #20-006-060-365472-200 or Clarien Bank Account #4010035760.
• To give to the Red Cross, call 236-8253 or visit their offices at 9 Berry Hill Road, Paget.
• Those who want to make non-monetary donations can reach the DRRM team at EMOGroup@gov.bm; 501-0380.
• Contact We Care at email@example.com, or donate at Butterfield account 0601640520014.