RESIDENTS of Long Island, among the hardest hit southern Bahamas islands by Hurricane Joaquin, have described the Category 4 storm as “the worst we’ve ever seen”.
Loretta Butler-Turner, the Long Island MP, said the storm could not have hit her constituents “much harder”. She said the centre of Joaquin travelled the entire length of the island, so named because it stretches for 100 miles.
Revealing that she lost communications with Long Island at 1.30am on Friday, Mrs Butler-Turner said members of its Disaster Preparedness Committee had spent the previous night rescuing islanders from damaged or destroyed buildings.
Estimating the numbers who had to be rescued at “not more than 20”, she said: “Up to 1.30am this morning, the Disaster Committee team was out rescuing individuals who found themselves in compromised buildings or buildings that had been totally destroyed.”
Mrs Butler-Turner said most of the rescues took place in south Long Island, after Joaquin’s turn shifted the storm’s centre towards its northern end.
She added that some of the island’s hurricane shelters were forced to close after water started leaking in, forcing people to seek refuge in homes belonging to other islanders. Residents living in low lying areas also had to be evacuated due to flooding.
“Right now, I can’t say what level of devastation they’ve endured,” Mrs Butler-Turner said. “The individuals I’ve spoken to have said this is the worst they’ve ever seen it, with 100 mile per hour-plus winds. The sea surge and high tide has not helped the situation. They could not have been hit much harder, with the economic depression and now this significant and relentless storm that hovered over them for 36 hours. It could not have been much worse.”
Mrs Butler-Turner said she was working with businesses and private donors to secure relief supplies for her constituents, promising that she would fly to Long Island from the Bahamian capital, Nassau, to assess the damage as soon as the weather allowed.
She added that the US embassy in Nassau was also working to co-ordinate reconnaissance flights over Long Island and other islands in the central and southern Bahamas that had born the brunt of Joaquin.
The storm is expected to turn towards the north-east and leave the Bahamas during tonight and Saturday morning, after dropping up to 25 inches of rain.
Pedro Rolle, president of the Chamber of Commerce on Exuma, said conditions on the central Bahamas island were better than it appeared on satellite images of Joaquin.
Exuma seemed likely to be spared the worst of the storm. Mr Rolle said: “The conditions are unlike the reports. Whenever you look at the radar, it looks a whole lot worse than what we’re experiencing. It’s not as bad as it could have been. We don’t have any flooding from rain in central Exuma, which is good, and even the wind itself at the moment is not too bad and not causing any destruction.”
Mr Rolle added: “At this point we’re doing OK. We’re getting reports of what has happened in Crooked Island, and we’re not experiencing anything like that on this part of mainland Exuma.”
He said Exuma, though, had received little warning of Joaquin’s approach and likely impact, leaving people with little time to prepare.
“This came upon us so suddenly that most persons were ill-prepared or unprepared for this, and a lot of the normal stuff they do did not get done in terms of securing their homes,” Mr Rolle said.
Craig Gomez, president of the Bahamas Red Cross, said it was “moving expeditiously to provide assistance” to the islands worst hit by Joaquin. He added that it was organising food, medical and other supplies, working alongside NEMA and other government agencies.