‘Simply Harrowing’: Bahamian Senator ‘Stunned’ At Destruction From Hurricane DorianPlay
Rescue and relief efforts are underway in the Bahamas, where Hurricane Dorian battered the islands with heavy rain and high winds for more than two days.
On the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, the storm brought up to 23 feet of storm surge.
On Monday night, Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian “the greatest national crises in our country's history.”
At least seven people are confirmed dead. That number is expected to rise as recovery efforts mobilize.
“Property you can replace, but human lives, that's a whole 'nother thing,” Bahamian Senator Fred Mitchell says.
“People are understandably stunned,” he adds. Mitchell says he’s “shocked” looking at the pictures emerging from the islands’ most devastated areas.
“Historians tell us that the last time anything like this occurred in the Bahamas was back in 1932, and over those same islands,” Mitchell says. “So no one in living memory has any idea of the kind of destruction that a hurricane of this force can bring.”
On the number of deaths
“I think people are really shocked by deaths because heretofore, we've considered that we'd been very fortunate in that our codes have caused the structures to survive. But I think no one properly anticipated the strength and the vigor that this storm brought to the Bahamas.”
On the level of destruction
“This morning I got a briefing from the police, and they say the airport at Treasure Cay is now open. That's an 8,000 foot runway. That's also an international port. Treasure Cay is about 20 minutes, 30 minutes drive up from Marsh Harbour. The Marsh Harbour Airport is still covered in water, but Treasure Cay has now receded. And so it's able to take flights. The problem is that the roads are still blocked.”
“In Grand Bahama, there are lots of stories, and people are just holding their breath really that, you know, it comes out OK because people are trapped in their ceilings as the water started to rise, and it was difficult with the winds at [180, 185] miles an hour howling outside to be able to do anything to mount a rescue. So it's just simply harrowing.”
On how to prepare for future storms
“You have some experts in here from Hawaii who have been working with the Bahamas over a number of years on storm preparation. And they did the scenarios for us and laid out what the damage was going to be, that it was going to be catastrophic and that it would take days, not hours, to start mounting rescues and sure enough that's what it's proven. So the prime minister said last night and of course our side agrees that obviously, we have to look at the codes. We have to look at our procedures. We have to look at the issues of climate change and all of those things in order to see how we plan for the future. But of course, the immediate future now is to try and rescue those who are perishing and those who are in need of help, and to try and get the international community to join us.”
On the state of communications
“Abaco is going to be a little bit down the road because I think the towers were compromised. So that's a little bit more difficult … The police communication has been restored. And Grand Bahama, there is some telecommunications contact in Grand Bahama, but it's going to be, I think, some days before you will actually know when people actually get on the ground and the airports are back open in Grand Bahama. That is the Freeport Airport, the West End Airport is now open and be able to get supplies in. But communications, that's going to be a little bit.”
Ciku Theuri produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Kathleen McKenna. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.
This segment aired on September 4, 2019.