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Hurricane Nicole – A symbol of climate injustice

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By Deandre Williamson

Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellow

 

#TheBahamas, November 29, 2022 – With the trauma of Hurricane Dorian still lingering, Abaco and Grand Bahama residents braced for Hurricane Nicole as they experienced another unfair blow of climate injustice.

As sea levels rose, triggering storm surges and flooding, the northwestern islands of The Bahamas were placed under hurricane watch.  For many, this signaled that the fight for climate justice must continue.

Some residents on those islands evacuated their homes and fled to shelters hours before Nicole made landfall in The Bahamas on Nov. 9 as a tropical storm and strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane with winds up to 75 miles per hour.

“The wind was manageable.  It wasn’t as bad as we thought.  In our area we got maybe a limb or so that blew down.  The power was out for a while, but thank God, we made it through it,” Abaco resident Mark Anthony Swain said.

Although the impact of Hurricane Nicole was minimal when compared to Hurricane Dorian in 2019, climate change is the underlying cause of the intensity and frequency of hurricanes in recent years.

When Nicole exited The Bahamas, the “all clear” was given, but the country isn’t clear from future hurricanes and the devastating effects of climate change.

However, it’s clear that The Bahamas and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) need climate justice because they are hit hardest by the impact of climate change, are the least responsible and together bear next to no responsibility for the climate crisis.

While the Government of The Bahamas is fighting for climate justice, residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama are calling for more to be done to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Swain, who also experienced Hurricane Dorian, said the countries that are major contributors of carbon emissions in the atmosphere should do more to assist smaller countries in fighting climate change, so when hurricanes and other natural disasters occur, the smaller countries will be able to maintain themselves.

“I think these other countries that are contributing to the climate challenge that we are facing should be held responsible and accountable in that regard,” Swain added.

China, the United States, Russia, India and Japan are the top five countries with the highest carbon emissions in the world.

Grand Bahama resident Randy Deleveaux, who was on the island during Hurricane Nicole, agrees that more should be done concerning the climate crisis because The Bahamas is in a hurricane zone based on its geographical location.

“We know that every year rain, sun or shine, it appears as if we are going to have a hurricane, whether it’s a major one or not a major one,” Deleveaux said.  “As a matter of fact, even though the ones we consider not major, we still have to take more necessary precautions because Dorian taught us we can’t take nothing for granted.”

Deleveaux suggested that the government should ensure that every household is equipped with storm shutters, floatation devices and life jackets.

“There are so many things that the government can do and persons can do in relation to hurricanes because we always have to prepare,” he added.

“Every time we have a hurricane coming, persons have to run and scrap for plywood to put on their windows.  We need to move from that and be able to properly prepare.

“Look at our coastal erosion and stuff like that because of the hurricanes.  I remember one time you could go on the beaches and see sand, now some of these beaches don’t have no sand like that because of hurricanes and we’re not even looking at the impact that is having on our coastal and marine life. We don’t replace the sand.  There is so much things we can do.”

 

Loss and Damage

But no matter how large or small a hurricane measures on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, there is always loss and damage associated with a storm.

According to Prime Minister of The Bahamas Philip Davis, during the Caribbean Regional Heads of Government Meeting in Preparation for COP27, more than 50 percent of The Bahamas’ outstanding debt can be linked to the impacts of the hurricanes between 2015 and 2019.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in its damage and loss assessments (DaLA) synthesis, noted that The Bahamas has lost more than $4.2 billion over the past seven years as a result of Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew, Irma and Dorian.

Abaco and Grand Bahama are still rebuilding from Hurricane Dorian and, although minimal, the damages from Hurricane Nicole are being assessed.

Prime Minister Davis was in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt attending COP27 when Hurricane Nicole passed through the northwestern Bahamas.  At COP27, he called on world leaders to get real about ensuring that loss and damage are compensated for.

“We do not have a significant carbon footprint in the world. Yes, we do have a significant carbon sink in the world.  But yet still, after this hurricane has passed, who’s going to have to pay for the recovery, reconstruction and for normalizing the lives of my people?” Davis said in a video interview.

Climate justice fights for solutions to the climate crisis that would result in reduced emissions and industrialized rich nations sharing the burden of the crisis by helping SIDS handle the severe effects of climate change.

Swain lost his home during Hurricane Dorian and there are others who also lost their homes and some are still living in trailers in Abaco.

Without insurance, Swain is rebuilding his home, but the progress is slow.

He explained that the Disaster Reconstruction Authority and other NGOs promised to help him, but they haven’t delivered on their promises as yet.

“We will, out of pocket, try to do some things to get us along,” Swain said.

Hurricane Dorian caused a housing shortage in Abaco and the demand for a home is great.

According to Swain, because of the demand and desperation to find a home, the rent in Abaco is skyrocketing.

“You can find the average apartment, two bedroom, going for no less than $1,500.  In some instances it’s over $2,000,” he said.

After negotiations and hearing the pleas of Small Island Developing States, COP27 closed with the announcement of a loss and damage fund to compensate countries impacted by climate change. This is a huge step in the fight for climate justice.

 

This story was published with the support of Climate Tracker’s Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship.

 

Deandre Williamson

Journalist

Member, The Bahamas Press Club 2014

 

Caption:  Flooding in Abaco caused by Hurricane Nicole. (Photo/Abaco resident)

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U.S. Supports the RBPF With Additional Crime Fighting Vehicles on The Bahamas’ “Road to 50”

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#TheBahamas, January 31, 2023 – Since 1973, the United States and The Bahamas have enjoyed a long-lasting security partnership.  To mark this valued friendship, the United States Government, on January 31, 2023, renewed its support for the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) with 20 new Ford Police Inceptor Hybrid SUVs valuing nearly $1.4 million.  The United States’ Chargé d’Affaires Usha Pitts; Prime Minister, the Hon. Philip Davis; Minister of National Security, the Hon. Wayne Munroe and RBPF Commissioner Clayton Fernander were on hand for the donation at RBPF East Hill Street Headquarters.

The 20 hybrid vehicles will be added to the 32 vehicles previously donated to the RBPF by the US government to help replace crucial infrastructure lost during Hurricane Dorian.  Recovering from a hurricane is an arduous process that requires support at many levels, from roads and housing to mental health services.  The U.S. government hopes these vehicles will contribute to one key step in the process: citizen security.  These vehicles will not only assist the RBPF’s efforts to combat crime but will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the islands.

In her remarks Chargé Pitts noted, “these vehicles are just one example of the United States’ continued efforts to help for The Bahamas’ keep its citizens and visitors safe.”

Prime Minister Philip Davis showed his appreciation for this timely vehicle donation as it will assist with added capacity and increased saturation patrols on the streets.  The Prime Minister added that residents will notice an increased police presence and the police will have new capacity to respond quickly to any criminal activity.

RBPF Commissioner Clayton Fernander highlighted that “we have noticeably taken more illegal firearms and ammunition off our streets in 2022.  We have also seized more illegal drugs including marijuana and marijuana plants than in [previous] years.  Suffice to say, we have efficiently utilized all 32 vehicles previously donated by the U.S. government in our crime fighting efforts.”

In recent years, the U.S. Government, through U.S. Embassy Nassau, has delivered more than $25 million to assist The Bahamas with efforts to fight crime.  On behalf of the Bahamian people, Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe extended his gratitude for the U.S. government’s assistance noting “It seems that when we’re together there [is] always an occasion where they [U.S. government] have helped us and assisted us substantially.”

Captions: Credited to U.S. Embassy Nassau

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Minister of Health & Wellness thanks Cuban nurses for their service during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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#TheBahamas, January 31, 2023 – An appreciation ceremony was held at SuperClubs Breezes resort, January 30, 2023, to thank the remaining cohort of nurses from the Republic of Cuba who joined the cadre of healthcare workers at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) to assist in the delivery of hospital services and patient care in face of the impact of COVID-19.
The cohort originally comprised 42 nurses who started their duties on Monday, January 24, 2022. The ceremony was attended by some 25 remaining nurses.
 
Minister of Health and Wellness the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville thanked the Cuban Ambassador, His Excellency Julio Cesar Gonzalez Marchante, on behalf of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues, for Cuba’s response to the call for help from the Bahamas Government.
 
“You came to us in one of our most dangerous moments. You came to us in the heat of the Delta Variant when many of our brothers and sisters lost their lives as a result of COVID,” Minister Darville said.
“At the time that I went to Cuba, we had about 100 nurses in our healthcare system who were out as a result of COVID, while the developed world was recruiting our nurses left, right and centre.”
 
He also noted that at that time The Bahamas could not even get vaccines.
 
“We are a Small Island Developing State. The world was hoarding the vaccines to developed countries and our population was very vulnerable because we did not have access to what the developed world had.”
 
Minister Darville said, “But we had a friend 100 miles to the south of us who came to our rescue. You came to us at our most vulnerable moment. For that as a country, Your Excellency, we will forever be grateful to the Republic of Cuba.”
 
The Minister noted that the nurses’ services were so exemplary and needed, the contract, which was originally for three months, was extended to one-year. Despite this, he said it was time for the nurses to return home to their loved ones.
However, he explained that the relationship between the two countries has not ended as he is in negotiations with the Republic of Cuba for bringing in some additional biomedical engineers, physicians, respiratory therapists and HVAC specialists.
 
 
PHOTO CAPTION – Minister of Health and Wellness the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville thanked the nurses from the Republic of Cuba for bolstering the country’s healthcare system during the COVID-19 Pandemic, during an appreciation ceremony at SuperClubs Breezes, Monday, January 30, 2023.
 
(BIS Photos/Patrick Hanna)

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The Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation on Visitor Arrivals

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#TheBahamas, January 30, 2023 – The Ministry of Tourism is extremely excited to announce that visitor arrivals to The Bahamas eclipsed seven million in 2022, signaling a return to pre-pandemic tourism numbers.
In total 7,000,706 visitors came to The Bahamas in 2022.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation Chester Cooper praised The Bahamas’ performance and the work put in by industry professionals across the board.

“The fact that we have exceeded expectations and attracted more than 7 million visitors to our country in 2022, something only done once before in a single year was no accident,” he said.

“Countless stakeholders in the Bahamian tourism industry, including our international partners, worked tirelessly to achieve this. We sought to strengthen relationships to open new air routes. We sought to make travel to The Bahamas easier, more accessible, and affordable and took the message that we were open for business during our Missions and provided insight on our wonderful offerings to the world.”

DPM Cooper forecasted that 2023 promises to shatter even pre-pandemic numbers as interest in the Bahamas and our brand reputation have never been stronger.

“According to statistics the second half of 2022 outperformed the second half of 2019,” he said. In 2022, 1,470,244 visitors came to our shores by air; another 5,530,462 visitors arrived by sea.

Nassau and Grand Bahama remained our most popular destinations by air, while Nassau and The Berry Islands remained our most popular destinations by sea.  Foreign air and sea arrivals for 2022 were up by 233 percent over the same period in 2021 and just 3.4 percent shy of record arrivals in 2019.  December 2022 saw total arrivals eclipse 900,000 visitors, more than any month in our history.  Cruise arrivals in 2022 increased by nearly 400 percent over 2021 and were less than 1 percent below 2019 cruise arrivals.

Air and cruise arrivals monthly from July to December 2022 surpassed the corresponding month in 2019.
Occupancy rates for 2022 eclipsed occupancy rates for every corresponding month in 2021.

The average daily room rate in 2022 outperformed that category for every corresponding month in 2021. The Bahamas carved out new ground with more than 55 percent of first-time arrivals to The Bahamas, with increases in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

DPM Cooper confirmed that the last six months are the strongest The Bahamas has ever seen.  He firmly concluded by saying; “What the Ministry of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation are forecasting so far and what forward bookings indicate, is that we are on track to break records in 2023. We don’t see this slowing down anytime soon.”

Mrs. Latia Duncombe, Director General of Tourism added that everyone should understand that tourism is critical to our economy and all Bahamians, even those who do not directly work in the tourism industry, should always seek to lift the industry up.

“We are all in the tourism business in The Bahamas. And it’s a great business to be in. We want to keep our brand fresh and evergreen. And that’s everyone’s job, especially mine. I have a great, hardworking team at our ministry and we have some incredible things in store this year.”

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