NASSAU, The Bahamas, October 16, 2016 – In the wake of the powerful Hurricane Matthew, the National Emergency Management Agency is strengthening its organizational structure and systems so as to effectively bring about assistance to Bahamians impacted by the storm. This is being done through a three-tier system, which is being organized to include ground assessors, zone or district coordinators, technical and social services teams.
Social services teams have already assisted many of the families impacted in the hard hit areas of New Providence, North Andros and West End, Grand Bahama. The teams, are being strengthened so as to expedite and conclude assessments as soon as possible, as the relief and recovery phases are being carried out.
Hurricane Matthew passed through New Providence on October 5 as a Category 3 storm leaving thousands of downed power lines, major disruption to communications, electricity services and other utilities, and massive flooding and storm surge along the eastern and southwestern shorelines.
Hurricane Matthew passed through North Andros as a Category 4 storm; where 80 percent of homes in Lowe Sound, Andros were destroyed. The neighboring communities of Nicholls Town, Morgan’s Bluff, Red Bay’s and Mastic Point also experienced damages due to strong winds and extensive flooding. And in West end, also as a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Matthew left 95 percent of the buildings in Eight Mile Rock and Holmes Rock significantly damaged. However that community of North Andros is being assisted with food and water from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force container city where meals are provided daily for those residents.
The Government, through NEMA, has intensified its relief and recovery phases, in the first instance ensuring that immediate supplies such as water and food reach those in need shipped by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force vessels. Also in the interim, each constituency is being given two big rolls of tarpaulin to be distributed by designated teams comprising Social Services, Defence Force and Housing to ensure residents whose homes suffered roof damage were protected from further leaking.
The Ministry of Tourism through its cruise ship partners Carnival and Norwegian Sky have, with the assistance of NEMA, distributed thousands of pounds of ice and water to residents in need of these essential supplies. Some financial assistance is coming in from the local and international communities namely Commonwealth Bank, the Chinese Embassy, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and others.
The utility companies such as BPL, BTC, Cable Bahamas and Water & Sewerage are reporting restoration efforts in an effort to return to some sense of normalcy, the lives of affected residents. More specifically, Bahamas Power and Light Company (BPL) is making good progress and has 14 crews dispatched in the field , including 2 teams from the Caribbean Electricity Utility Services Corporation (CARILEC), two PowerSecure teams and two private contractor teams.
Areas of particular interests are Pinewood Gardens, given the flooding experienced there, Elizabeth Estates and Yellow Elder Gardens. There are also teams in Sea Breeze, and on Marshall Road, which is one of the hardest hit areas in southern New Providence. BPL reported restoring power to more than 80 percent of residential customers on New Providence and is aiming to be closer to full restoration by the end of the week.
Significant progress has been made toward the clean up efforts on New Providence, Grand Bahama and Andros. Teams from each community were formed to remove debris from public parks, roads and other thoroughfares. The effort in New Providence is about 60 percent completed. The mammoth task of cleaning in Grand Bahama, West End in particular, is progressing well.
Utility poles and downed power and telephone lines are being removed and secured daily. As electricity is being restored in various communities, work teams will work through the evening in an effort to expedite the clearing up process. The public is reminded to store damaged appliances and furniture in safe places outside their walls and fences for easy collection by the pick-up crew.
Where possible, the public is encouraged to transport garbage, furniture and other bulk waste to the New Providence Landfill at no cost. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has signed and an Exigency Order, enabling impacted residents of New Providence Grand Bahama, The Berry Islands and North and Central Andros to bring in specified goods, duty free.
The Government is mindful of the impact of Hurricane Matthew on the business community. In this vein, the Government is giving consideration to the incentive and assistance packages to help businesses re-open in the shortest possible time. Meetings have been held with business leaders in an effort to bring relief to businesses. Assistance to the business community can take several years, however the Government is determined to develop the most effective model to jump start businesses.
Acknowledging the importance of small businesses to the growth of the economy, a comprehensive assessment of fishermen and farmers will commence this week with a view of determining the extent of losses in this category of the local economy. Following the assessments, a determination will be made as to the level of assistance and support to be given to those impacted.
The Government of The Bahamas will work with the Clearing Banks in an effort to devise a formula for persons whose homes were destroyed and large mortgage payments exist. Encouraged by one banking institution which has pledged to review its ease of loan payments programme, the Government will continue to explore all options to soften the hardship persons endure with mortgage loans, where homes were either destroyed or severely damaged.
Relief supplies being shipped to North Andros, as part of ongoing relief and recovery programme following the passage of Hurricane Matthew, which impacted the country, about a week ago.
ICE being distributed from NEMA on Gladstone Road to residents impacted by Hurricane Matthew. Meanwhile, electricity is being restored by BPL to consumers.
(BIS PHOTO/Patrick Hanna)