12 noon UPDATE: US Coast Guard reports that crews have spotted multiple items in the water in the vicinity of El Faro's last known position.
10.30am UPDATE: Aircraft returned to the southeastern Bahamas early on Sunday to resume the search for a US cargo ship with 33 people on board that lost power and communications when it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin and has not been heard from since Thursday.
US Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force planes and helicopters were expected to spend the day looking for the El Faro across a broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean around Crooked Island, which the ship was passing when it was battered by fierce winds and waves by what was then a Category 4 hurricane.
The Coast Guard on Saturday located a life ring from the 790-foot cargo ship but turned back at nightfall. While the storm has moved out of the Bahamas and was heading toward Bermuda, the pilots were still contending with high winds and low visibility that made the search difficult and dangerous, said Petty Officer First Class David Schuhlein.
"Our hope is that we can really saturate that area better than yesterday," said PO Schuhlein.
The El Faro departed from Jacksonville, Florida on September 29, when Joaquin was still a tropical storm, with 28 crew members from the United States and five from Poland. The ship was heading to Puerto Rico on a regular cargo supply run to the US island territory.
The ship's operator, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, said it had told family members of the El Faro crew not to be discouraged by the discovery of a life ring, saying it may help authorities narrow the search and locate the vessel. "While this reflects that the ship was caught in rough seas and extreme weather, it is in no way indicative of the ship's fate," the company said in a statement. "Small items such as life rings and life jackets are lost at sea frequently, particularly in rough weather."
10.15am UPDATE: Here is a guide to how you can help some the community relief efforts launched around The Bahamas to assist those who have been affected by Hurricane Joaquin, along with where you can drop off donations and how you can help through volunteering or financial donations.
If you are involved in a relief effort and wish to be added to The Tribune's round-up, contact Stephen Hunt on 447-3565 or contact him on Twitter @chippychatty.
Trans Island Airways and Rotaract
The Trans Island Airways relief effort is flying supplies out today to affected locations. Supply drop locations include Odyssey Aviation, the Seahorse Institute and the Kitchen Deli. The team is calling for any supplies or funds that people can contribute. Rotaract have listed as emergency needs water, non-perishable food items, first aid supplies, batteries, flashlights, tarps, garbage bags, gloves, toilet paper, paper towels, matches, pet food, two-way radios for first responders, baby formula and diapers. Secondary needs are clothing, tools, cleaning supplies, mattresses, linens and radios. Jet fuel donations can be made via cash and credit card, contact 357-9876. Email email@example.com for more information.
On Sunday, the HeadKnowles team is asking for people to come to the Furniture Plus Distribution Centre with donations or to volunteer to help sort through supplies. Donations can also be given to the Red Cross or dropped off at Odyssey Aviation. Water and clothes have been identified as the highest prorities for donations today.
Through the month – though closed today – New Oriental Laundry locations at Prince Charles Drive, Mackey Street, Golden Gates and Cable Beach have donation bins for gently used or new clothes and shoes, blankets, water, non-perishable food and snacks such as canned food and rice, baby items, toiletries, feminine products and pet supplies including cat and dog food.
HeadKnowles is also appealing for cash donations for gas for planes and lumber for house repairs. The organisation says it has been contacted by many large companies such as Milo Butler. For more information, visit https://www.youcaring.com/bringing-relief-to-our-families-in-the-bahamas-443717.
Rotary Club of East Nassau
The Rotary Club of East Nassau has announced that donated canned goods, clothing, water and other non-perishables can be dropped to Ben Albury, the General Manager at Bahamas Bus and Truck Company, on Montrose Avenue and Tenwich Street on Monday morning. Mr Albury will arrange delivery to the islands that need the supplies the most.
The club says it will be creating a separate crowd funding initiative and will hold is a fundraiser on Thursday evening at Bambu with all $20 admissions going to the hurricane relief cause. Information on the GREAT (Global Rotary East Action Today) Facebook page.
Long Islanders' Association
Also based at Odyssey Aviation are team members from the Long Islanders' Association, who are accepting donations. The association has also authorised a fundraising account through Indiegogo at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bahamas-hurricane-joaquin-relief-efforts#/
Deposits can also be made at a number of banks as follows:
Scotiabank – account name: Hurricane Relief Long Island Bahamas. Account number: 170941. Branch Transit Number: 03465
For more information, contact Dwight R. Burrows on 424-2746; Gina Coakley on 427-0591 or Brian Turnquest on 242-359-1010
The Bahamas Red Cross Society is seeking donations of rice, tuna, peanut butter, oatmeal, canned spaghetti, jams, flour, sardines, corn beef, sugar, fruit cups, evaporated milk as well as other non-perishable items, as well as furniture and bedding. They are accepting collections at JFK on Sunday until 4pm.
Monetary donations can be deposited at A/C #289-423-6 at the Royal Bank at John F Kennedy Drive. For more information, call 323-7370.
Mario's Bowling and Family Entertainment Palace is inviting people who wish to donate food, clothing or supplies of any kind to bring them to Mario's at Summwerwinds Plaza on Sunday from 3pm until 9pm and during this week from 9am to 10pm.
Any Organizations, Charities, Groups, wishing to use Mario's as a distribution point, please feel free to use us as an outlet. We will make our facility and surrounding spaces available to you.
Ultimate Door and Window
The Cartwright family is accepting donations for Long Island – listing water, toiletries, food, feminine products, clothes, tarps etc – which can be dropped off to Ultimate Door and Window until Tuesday. Specialised packages for friends and family in Long Island can be given to Bianca Cartwright, Brandon Cartwright, Gavin Cartwright, Michael and Cynthia Cartwright and they will get it to Long Island and to those individuals. DeAndra Cartwright asked for items for her grandmother, Lorene Cartwright, who has lost her house, and her grandfather and aunt, Archie and Bonita Moree in The Bight. However, general donations rather than specific ones are easier to transport, organisers said.
Ultimate Door & Window is located behind the Auto Mall on Shirley Street across from St. Matthew's Anglican Church. Contact numbers are 424-8602, 422-3926 & 457-3546.
Kiwanis Clubs of The Bahamas
The Kiwanis Clubs have called for donations to be brought to Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union at Workers House, Harold Road, Nassau.
Emergency needs are water, non-perishable food items, first aid supplies, batteries, flashlights, tarps, garbage bags, gloves, toilet paper, paper towels, matches, pet food, two-way radios for first responders, baby formula, baby diapers, manual can openers, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils. Secondary needs are clothing, tools, cleaning supplies, mattresses, linens and radios.
The Kiwanis Clubs are partnering with Eastern Canada and Caribbean District of Kiwanis International, Sky Bahamas, Stanford Trucking, Deketa Designs, Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers union and Asue Draw.
For more information, contact Alfred Poitier on 424-2227.
For those in Freeport looking to give donations in support of the Joaquin relief effort, a 40-foot container will be situated at Control Chemicals on Monday.
Sponsors Eddie Whan and Justin Snisky called for people to drop off bottled water and non-perishable food items for inclusion. Mr Whan said: "My family and I will pay all freight costs to get the container from here down to whatever island is in the most need."
For further information, contact Mr Snisky on 727-4888 or Mr Whan on 727-4165.
9.30am UPDATE: A big relief effort being organised by HeadKnowles is continuing on Sunday morning with supplies being gathered and packed to be shipped by barge to Long Island at 1pm.
Gina Knowles, one of the co-founders, told The Tribune that from 9am on Sunday they will be collecting the donations gathered so far at the Furniture Plus distribution centre and seeking volunteers to help pack up and load the boats ready for departure.
The relief effort has already raised over $12,000 in cash. New Oriental Laundry locations at Prince Charles Drive, Mackey Street, Golden Gates and Cable Beach set up donation bins on behalf of HeadKnowles for gently-used or new clothes and shoes, blankets, water, non-perishable food and snacks such as canned food and rice, baby items, toiletries and pet supplies including cat and dog food.
And on Saturday at Island Cellular, Rosetta Street, Palmdale, 100 Jamz and Y98FM, the Radio House stations, donated their services by broadcasting live from the venue to help the relief effort, with on-air personalities Saraan, Naughty and JJ McKenzie helping to publicise the appeal.
HeadKnowles is also appealing for cash donations for gas for planes and lumber for house repairs. The organisation says it has been contacted by many large companies such as Milo Butler.
For more information visit https://www.youcaring.com/bringing-relief-to-our-families-in-the-bahamas-443717
9.15am UPDATE:The College of the Bahamas (COB) has advised that normal operations and classes will resume at the Northern Bahamas, Grosvenor Close and Oakes Field campuses, including the Harry C Moore Library and Information Centre and Chapter One Bookstore on Monday.
Family Island students are asked to contact the Campus Life Department at 302-4525 if they have received information that family members are in need of assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin. COB and several volunteer organisations are mobilising teams to travel to the impacted islands to render aid.
Sunday 12.30am UPDATE: Prime Minister Perry Christie pledged that no resources would be spared in the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin in restoring the islands ravaged by the storm despite the infrastructural cost being "extraordinary" and running to millions of dollars.
In a televised conference in Exuma during the day with members of the disaster council but broadcast on ZNS late on Saturday night, Mr Christie outlined the plans to respond quickly to the devastating effects of the hurricane. Mr Christie said the party had flown over San Salvador, Rum Cay and Long Island. He said there appeared to be "major devastation" in the south of Long Island.
Mr Christie said the challenge for the government was to move immediately to help the affected islands. That meant restoring communications and electricity and having social services assessments of the essential needs. He said special teams of social services experts and engineers would be dispatched to the affected islands - including Long Island, Acklins, San Salvador, Rum Cay and Crooked Island - on Sunday. He said the issues would not be tackled one island at a time. "We have to touch all of these islands at the same time, contemporaneously," he said.
He said that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) would need to be supplemented because of the extent of the devastation and the need to concentrate resources, including enlisting help from "allies and friends". The British Navy is on its way to the affected area and would either go to Acklins and Crooked Island or to Long Island to help assess the damage. Support teams from the United States would also be involved in the damage assessments.
He said speculation and rumours of 30 deaths from the storm is "absolutely not true". He said he had been told by the Police Commissioner that one elderly man was confirmed dead but it was not connected to the hurricane. However, he added: "We have to anticipate that with a calamitous happening to this country that there could be loss of life," he said. It was also confirmed that nine people had been recovered from Samana Cay.
Mr Christie said political differences had to be put aside in times of national challenges and the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Hubert Minnis, said it was time for the country to come together. "There's no red and no yellow," Dr Minnis said, before suggesting all children bring a can to school to go towards emergency supplies and that churches also play a key role in ensuring there was no division.
Leon Williams, CEO of Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), said that three towers on Long Island and one in Crooked Island had been knocked out but that technical support from Cable and Wireless was being brought in from places such as Panama and Jamaica. Carlo Alloni, Group Chief Technology and Information Officer at Cable and Wireless, estimated that in some cases communications could be restored in one day, in other more serious cases three to five days. He suggested that it would take "ten days maximum" to have everything back up and running and that work in Long Island would start on Sunday with teams from Miami and Nassau flying in.
Kevin Basden, General Manager of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), said a lot of infrastructure was still intact but the flooding which had separated the north and south parts of Long Island was a challenge. He said a team was going in on Sunday to assess both parts of the island. As well as flooding he said that the damage to buildings needed to be assessed first. He said it was "too early to tell" how long the restoration process would take. It was dependent on detailed assessment and "the amount of work we are up against". He said BEC would try to get a team into San Salvador and Rum Cay soonest.
Melanie Griffin, the Minister for Social Services, said similarly that teams would start work tomorrow on assessing the immediate needs, whether it be for food assistance, psychological damage or loss of homes.
The delegation led by Mr Christie included senior Police and Defence Force personnel, Cabinet ministers, Dr Minnis and Hubert Chipman of the Free National Movement and Captain Stephen Russell, Director of NEMA.
11.40pm UPDATE: Video from the Weather Channel shows Long Island from above.
11pm UPDATE: A group of Bahamians led by Long Islander George Cartwright are appealing for urgent supplies to be donated so that they can be flown to the hurricane-ravaged island on Sunday morning.
Mr Cartwright, a contractor in Nassau, organised two helicopters and a seaplane on Saturday to take essential supplies - particularly water - in a successful mission to Long Island.
The group is asking for supplies to be dropped off at at a reception point just inside the entrance to Odyssey Aviation at Lynden Pindling International Airport from 7.15am on Sunday. They are asking especially for donations of water, food, tinned supplies and clothing.
The supplies will be flown to Stella Maris airport, which re-opened on Saturday afternoon.
These flights will be among the 21 relief flights scheduled to the affected Family Islands on Sunday.
Sergio Curro, Senior Project Manager, Real Estate, with American Airlines tells The Tribune that Hurricane Joaquin's devastation of San Salvador was "a life changing experience".
describes the effects of winds up to 190mph which shook houses and how the eye took two and a half hours to pass over the island. He says getting the airport repaired for American Airlines flights to start on October 18 will be challenging and tells of a disrupted wedding party.
DONATING HURRICANE RELIEF SUPPLIES
These are photos from Island Cellular on Rosetta Street in Palmdale this afternoon where people and businesses have donated relief supplies.
100 Jamz and Y98 FM broadcast live from the event for four hours, appealing for people to donate supplies. Pictured is Radio House personality and Tribune columnist Naughty at the event and some of the supplies donated by the public and businesses.
10.10pm UPDATE: The Department of Civil Aviation advises the public that the Duncan Town Airport in Ragged Island and the Rum Cay Airport have been re-opened. The Colonel Hill, Crooked Island Airport; the Deadman’s Cay, Long Island Airport and Spring Point Airport in Acklins are under water and remain closed. The Department of Civil Aviation will continue to update the public on airport re-openings as soon as the airports have been deemed safe for operations.
8.50pm UPDATE: Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade has now tweeted that "there might be fatalities" as a result of Hurricane Joaquin but emphasised reports have not been been confirmed.
At 8.40pm he tweeted from @COPGreenslade "I am receiving reports that there might be fatalities in the extreme southern end on Long Island. This is NOT confirmed. I spoke directly with the Police Inspector in charge who is making his way to extreme end of Long Isld now with community support."
8.30pm UPDATE: Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner speaks about the relief effort, asking for help from every Bahamian.
8.10pm UPDATE: Dramatic photographs of the devastation caused by Hurricane Joaquin at the San Salvador airport show what is left of the airport terminal and an X-ray scanning machine lying in the middle of the runway.
7.45pm UPDATE: VOLUNTEERS have been working hard to gather donations for those affected by Hurricane Joaquin in The Bahamas - Full story HERE
7.25pm UPDATE: A Coast Guard pilot searching for the missing El Faro container ship, near the eye of hurricane Joaquin, recounts the weather conditions on Saturday. Meanwhile the US Coast Guard have said they have found a life ring from the El Faro. VIDEO HERE
6.15pm UPDATE: (Updated from earlier) - There are no confirmed fatalities yet in the islands affected by Hurricane Joaquin in The Bahamas - with the effects of the hurricane being compared to that of 1992's Hurricane Andrew.
Loretta Butler-Turner MP said that relief crews flying over Long Island had seen groups of people who had banded together for survival waving to signal they needed rescue.
Mrs Butler-Turner said: "The saddest part of all of this is that probably for the first time in many many years we have speculation that there are multiple deaths from this hurricane."
The call has gone out for people to donate to the cause, which Mrs Butler-Turner described as a "long-term project". She said there was heavy flooding in Long Island particularly.
Electrical services and communications remained down, and Father Keith Cartwright, sitting alongside Mrs Butler-Turner at a press briefing this afternoon, said that prayers are needed.
6.10pm UPDATE: US COAST Guard aircraft continued to search the waters of the southeastern Bahamas on Saturday for a cargo ship with 33 people on board that lost power and began taking on water as powerful Hurricane Joaquin roared across the archipelago – Full story HERE
5.30pm UPDATE: The Prime Minister, leader of the Opposition and Cabinet members are reported to be on a Bahamasair flight to the central and southern islands on Saturday afternoon to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Joaquin.
The delegation also includes technical officers according to a post on Facebook by Hope Strachan, the Minister of Financial Services.
4.50pm UPDATE: At least one person has been confirmed dead on Long Island due to the effects of Hurricane Joaquin.
Details are sparse but one death was confirmed to organisers of relief efforts for the island on Saturday.
Organisers were trying to get in contact with people on Long Island who have heavy equipment to meet them at Stella Maris airport to help distribute relief supplies to those in need.
More details will follow.
3.30pm UPDATE: The first assessment flight that left for the southern Bahamas early on Saturday morning returned to New Providence around 3pm with initial reports that Rum Cay, Crooked Island, San Salvador and Acklins are all "completely devastated".
The Long Island Association is holding a strategy meeting in an effort to identify the best way to proceed with relief efforts. There are calls for a major relief effort as reports surface of the dire conditions in many of the southern islands.
Organisers are attempting to mobilise heavy duty equipment to help transport stranded residents on the ground.
3pm UPDATE: The airports at San Salvador and Stella Maris, Long Island, have reopened, the Department of Civil Aviation has announced.
2.30pm UPDATE: For people in Freeport, Grand Bahama, looking to give donations in support of the Joaquin relief effort, a 40-foot container will be situated at Control Chemicals on Monday.
Sponsors Eddie Whan and Justin Snisky appealed on Saturday for people to drop off bottled water and non-perishable food items for inclusion.
Mr Whan said: "My family and I will pay all freight costs to get the container from here down to whatever island is in the most need."
For further information, contact Mr Snisky on 727-4888 or Mr Whan on 727-4165.
1pm UPDATE: The relief team lead by Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner was unable to land in Long Island on Saturday.
The Tribune understands that heavy flooding, downed poles and the presence of debris prevented any landing attempts.
The Trans Island Airways flight which left New Providence around 8am was attempting to fly an assessment flight over "as many" of the affected islands to ascertain the most feasible approach to get needed supplies in to those islands.
According to reports, some parts of the island have been totally destroyed. However, docks on the island are believed to be structurally sound.
Meanwhile, Crooked Island and Acklins' airports are also reportedly flooded.
Mrs Butler-Turner said the plan now is to refuel the flight in George Town, Exuma, and then perform an aerial assessment of San Salvador and Rum Cay.
The flight is due to return to New Providence at 2pm.
12.55pm UPDATE: These photographs show volunteers with supplies that have been donated to help those affected by the storm in the Family Islands and we've uploaded a gallery showing damage in San Salvador.
11.40am UPDATE: Bahamasair services to all Florida gateways, Freeport, Grand Bahama, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Eleuthera, Georgetown, Exuma, Havana, Cuba, and Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, have resumed.
Until further notice from the Ministry of Transport and NEMA there will be no Bahamasair service to Long Island, San Salvador, Acklins, Crooked Island, Mayaguana and Inagua.
People affected as a result of Hurricane Joaquin to and from these destinations are advised to contact Bahamasair reservations department to make alternate travel plans. Passengers will be accommodated without a change of itinerary fee, the company says. Further updates will be provided via radio and at Bahamasair.com.
11.20am UPDATE: A number of Family Islands airports have been reopened after being inspected, the Department of Civil Aviation has advised. They are:
Exuma: Moss Town, Black Point and Farmers Cay
Eleuthera: North Eleuthera, Governors Harbour and Rock Sound
Abaco: Marsh Harbour, Treasure Cay, Sandy Point and Moores Island
Andros: San Andros, Fresh Creek, Clarence A Bain, Congo Town
Cat Island: Arthur’s Town, New Bight
Berry Islands: Great Harbour Cay
Bimini: South Bimini
11am UPDATE: A relief effort being organised by HeadKnowles is gathering momentum on Saturday with appeals for essential items to be distributed to those on the Family Islands who are in "dire need" after suffering the effects of Hurricane Joaquin.
Between 2pm and 6pm at Island Cellular, Rosetta Street, Palmdale, Lia Head-Rigby and Gina Knowles, the principals of HeadKnowles, will appeal for and accept much-needed supplies. 100 Jamz and Y98FM, the Radio House stations, will be donating their services by broadcasting live from the venue to help the relief effort, with Saraan and JJ McKenzie helping to publicise the initiative.
New Oriental Laundry locations at Prince Charles Drive, Mackey Street, Golden Gates and Cable Beach have set up donation bins on behalf of HeadKnowles for gently used or new clothes and shoes, blankets, water, non-perishable food and snacks such as canned food and rice, baby items, toiletries and pet supplies including cat and dog food.
The organisation is asking for people with trucks to pick up the donations and take them to Furniture Plus' distribution centre, where volunteers will be needed to pack up items for shipment to the affected islands.
HeadKnowles is also appealing for cash donations for gas for planes and lumber for house repairs. The organisation says it has been contacted by many large companies such as Milo Butler.
For more information visit https://www.youcaring.com/bringing-relief-to-our-families-in-the-bahamas-443717
10.45am UPDATE:There are reports from the Loretta Butler-Turner relief flight that four residents of Long Island, believed to be diabetic, need to be airlifted immediately. United States Coast Guard are working with NEMA to arrange airlift and treatment.
9.45am UPDATE: There is still no clarification on how relief efforts for those southern islands ravaged by Hurricane Joaquin would be carried out as communications systems are still down.
A team organised by Trans Island Airways executives and Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner are attempting on Saturday morning to mobilise supplies and support teams to as many of the affected islands as possible, but the uncertainty over the infrastructure has delayed those plans.
Organisers are attempting to fly an assessment team over "as many" of the affected islands to ascertain the most feasible approach to get needed supplies in to those islands.
Paul Aranha, owner of Trans Island Airways, told the Tribune that this morning's assessment flight will cover Long Island, Acklins and Crooked Island; and if weather permits, Rum Cay and San Salvador.
He said: "We have enough fuel to cover all of those islands and we intend to fly over as many as possible to determine which ones we can get planes and relief supplies into."
Long Island, Acklins and Crooked Island were among the hardest hit southern Bahamas islands by Hurricane Joaquin over the last three days. Residents in Long Island have described the storm as “the worst we’ve ever seen”.
There has been little to no communication with the other two islands, with the latest being reports of severe flooding and destructive winds.
Father Keith Cartwright, who with Mrs Butler-Turner is leading Saturday's assessment flight, declared from the runway in Nassau: "We are taking off now on our mission of mercy."
Three donation sites have been established across New Providence: Odyssey Aviation at Nassau International Airport, the Seahorse Institute on Soldier Road north of Prince Charles Drive; and The Kitchen Deli on Shirley Street.
Priority supplies are bottled water, non-perishable food items, hand sanitiser or wipes, batteries, flashlights and tools.
Persons wishing to aid relief efforts can contact Matt Albury at 477-3134. For more information visit https://www.youcaring.com/family-island-residents-affected-by-hurricane-joaquin-443828
9.35am UPDATE: The U.S. Coast Guard resumed its search early Saturday across Bahamian waters for a disabled cargo ship with 33 crewmembers, including 28 Americans, that lost contact during Hurricane Joaquin, which was moving away from the archipelago, according to the Associated Press.
The 735-foot ship named El Faro had taken on water and was earlier reported to be listing at 15 degrees near Crooked Island, one of the islands most battered by the hurricane. The Coast Guard said it hadn't been able to re-establish communication with the vessel, which was travelling from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, when it was disabled by the storm.
9.30am UPDATE: A new tracking map has been added above.
9.25am UPDATE: The 6am alert from The Bahamas Department of Meteorology mentions that “…JOAQUIN IS MOVING NORTHEAST AWAY FROM THE BAHAMAS WHERE CONDITIONS SHOULD GRADUALLY IMPROVE THIS MORNING” but that “A HURRICANE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE CENTRAL BAHAMAS INCLUDING CAT ISLAND, EXUMA, LONG ISLAND, RUM CAY AND SAN SALVADOR, AND ACKLINS, CROOKED ISLAND, AND MAYAGUANA IN THE SOUTHEAST BAHAMAS.” - read it in full HERE
Saturday 12.30am UPDATE: We have added a new tracking map (above) showing Hurricane Joaquin moving northeast.
10.30pm UPDATE: The Department of Civil Aviation advises the public that all airports throughout the Bahamas, with the exception of the Lynden Pindling International Airport and the Grand Bahama International Airport, will remain closed, until Department staff have inspected those airports and confirmed that the runways are safe for operation.
The public will be advised on airport openings as soon as information on them is available.
The latest alert from The Bahamas Department of Meteorology can be read HERE.
7.40pm UPDATE: BTC has announced it will provide free credit for cellphones in the Central & Southern Bahamas areas affected by Hurricane Joaquin.
6.30pm UPDATE: BTC says it is applying a $5 credit to all mobile customers in Acklins, Crooked Island, Mayaguana, San Salvador, Rum Cay, Ragged Island, Inagua, Cat Island, Long Island and Long Cay to ensure their customers will be able to connect with family and friends. BTC says that the process of applying credits began on Friday and will continue throughout the weekend.
6.15pm UPDATE: A new tracking map has been added above.
5.45pm UPDATE: A comprehensive round-up of today's Hurricane Joaquin news can be read HERE.
5.30pm UPDATE: THE National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), in co-ordination with local government officials from islands affected by Hurricane Joaquin, are reporting on Friday afternoon that attempts to contact Long Island and Crooked Island have brought no response - Full story HERE
5.00pm UPDATE: These BIS photos from Derek Smith, show sea water on West Bay Street feeling the effects of Hurricane Joaquin.
4.55pm UPDATE: ALL cruise ships due to arrive in New Providence on Friday have been cancelled due to Hurricane Joaquin, Ministry of Tourism officials have announced - Full story HERE
4.00pm UPDATE: This afternoons alert on Joaquin from the Bahamas Department of Meteorology can be read HERE
3.40pm UPDATE: There are reports that the Zion Baptist Church in United Estates, San Salvador - which is used as a shelter - is having difficulties amid the storm. According to a woman there, “the roof is about to blow off”.
3.20pm UPDATE: Hurricane Joaquin has forced two sporting events to be rescheduled this weekend in New Providence.
The New Providence Softball Association announced on Friday that the best-of-five playoff series that was scheduled to be played Friday night has been rescheduled for Saturday night at the Banker's Field at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex. The schedule sees Lady Operators vs Johnson's Lady Truckers at 7pm followed by the men’s game between Chances Mighty Mitts vs BTC Warriors at 8.30pm.
Swift Swimming has announced that its Open Water Swim Meet scheduled for Saturday at Palm Cay, has been rescheduled for Sunday afternoon. Registration will be at 1.30pm, the 1.6k and 5k races will start at 3pm and the 10&Under 800m race will be at 4.30pm.
3.05pm UPDATE: Long Islanders have described Hurricane Joaquin as “the worst storm they have ever seen” - Full story HERE
2.50pm UPDATE: A US cargo ship with 33 people on board has gone missing after it lost power near Crooked Island as Hurricane Joaquin hit - Full story HERE
2.40pm UPDATE: TWO boats are overdue to return on separate fishing trips to Green Cay, BASRA's Chris Lloyd has confirmed - Full story HERE
2.20pm UPDATE: The latest alert from the Bahamas Department of Meteorology can be read HERE.
1.50pm UPDATE: Communication to the storm-battered central and southern islands remains challenged on Friday as officials report a total blackout on the hardest hit islands of Crooked Island, Long Island, and Acklins - FULL STORY HERE
1.20pm UPDATE: More from today's print edition storm coverage:
PM talks of ‘teachable moment’ amid anger over govt response
FNM blasts Christie administration for being caught off guard
1.00pm UPDATE: Here is today's lead story with Acklins residents saying “we weren't given enough warning' CLICK HERE
12.30pm UPDATE: Hurricane Joaquin is moving northwards at 3mph and is expected to turn northeastwards on Friday night with an increase in forward speed, the Bahamas Department of Meteorology is forecasting.
At 11am the centre of the storm was located about 30 miles north north east of Clarence Town, Long Island, 35 miles south south west of San Salvador, 12 miles south of Rum Cay, 65 miles south east of The Bight, Cat Island, and 192 miles south east of New Providence. Hurricane force winds extend up to 50 miles from the centre and tropical storm force winds up to 205 miles.
The Department warns that heavy rainfall could result in life threatening flash floods over the central and south east Bahamas today. A very dangerous and life threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as six to 12 feet above normal tide levels in the central Bahamas.
Maximum sustained winds are near 130mph with higher gusts. Some fluctuations in intensity are possible during the next 24 hours and slow weakening is expected to begin on Saturday.
On its present track, the centre of the hurricane is moving over Rum Cay and then San Salvador this evening. Residents in Long Island, south Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador will experience hurricane force winds today. Residents in the remainder of Cat Island, Exuma and Eleuthera should experience tropical storm force winds today and tonight. Conditions in Acklins and Crooked Island will continue to improve through the day.
Small craft operators are advised to remain in port.
12 noon UPDATE: BTC is reporting service disruptions in some areas as a result of Hurricane Joaquin.
The company reported landline, internet and mobile outages on Friday due to commercial power failure in the southeastern islands including Acklins, Rum Cay, Crooked Island, Ragged Island, Mayaguana, Inagua, Rum Cay and Long Cay.
Though commercial connectivity has been lost in some pockets in the southeastern islands due to power outages, BTC said in a statement that it remains in contact with its Family Island management teams via satellite phones. "Our technical teams are remotely assessing the extent of the disruptions. Once the all clear has been issued, our technical teams will be on the ground to begin service restorations," the statement said.
All of BTC’s offices closed at 12 noon but its Command Centre remains open at its National Network Operations Centre as it continues to monitor the effects of Hurricane Joaquin. The company has asked the public to report any additional concerns or issues directly to BTC, by calling us toll free at CALL-BTC or 225-5282. Customers may also reach out on social media.
10.45am UPDATE: The Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) is open and operating on Friday morning but will close at 2pm and reopen at 7am on Saturday while air traffic services are suspended.
Domestic and International flight schedules have been impacted by Hurricane Joaquin. The airport has advised passengers travelling on Friday morning to check their flight schedules and contact their respective airlines directly for updates. Updates can be found on the airports’ website www.nassaulpia.com
10.30am UPDATE: The Meteorology Department has issued a statement via the Ministry of Transport and Aviation saying that that its Doppler Radar is operational and has been operational continuously and throughout the entire tracking process of Hurricane Joaquin, contrary to suggestions on Thursday on The Weather Channel.
8.35am UPDATE: We have updated the tracking map for Hurricane Joaquin. (above)
8am UPDATE: Hurricane Joaquin has begun to move slowly northwestwards as it batters the central Bahamas. The storm's maximum sustained winds early on Friday are near 130mph and it remains a dangerous Category 4 hurricane.
The US National Hurricane Centre says some fluctuations in strength are possible during Friday with slow weakening expected to begin on Saturday.
As of 5am, the storm was centred about 20 miles north east of Clarence Town, Long Island, and is moving northwest near 3mph.
7.30am UPDATE: Due to the close proximity of Hurricane Joaquin and the forecasted weather associated with the Category 4 storm, the Cabinet Office has announced that in addition to all schools being closed on Friday, all Government offices, except for essential services, will be closed at noon.
All banks and private businesses will be closed at 1pm on Friday.
The College of The Bahamas will be closed on Friday to all but essential services, who are to report to campus including Senior Team, Emergency Management Team, Security and Physical Plant staff. The College will advise when it will resume operations. Additionally, SAT exams that were scheduled for Saturday are cancelled and an announcement for a make-up date will be made available as soon as possible.
The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) will also be closed on Friday. All essential staff, who are responsible for securing the property, are to report to work to do just that.
Staff, faculty and students are encouraged to monitor emails and/or BTVI's social media sites for updates regarding resumption of operations.
11.30pm UPDATE: All schools in the Bahamas have been closed until further notice, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has announced tonight. The College of The Bahamas and The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute will also be closed on Friday.
In a statement the Ministry said: "In light of Hurricane Joaquin and information provided by NEMA officials, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has decided to close all schools throughout The Bahamas until further notice. As this is a big system, even though islands may not be in the direct path, the outer bands place the majority of our islands under a hurricane warning.
"We advise all residents to take necessary precautions and to remember that protection of life is more important that the protection of things. We will provide further updates as information becomes available. Please remember to check the Ministry’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for additional updates."
10.50pm UPDATE: Acklins resident Anita Pratt voices her concerns during the storm today in this audio clip:
9.25pm UPDATE: The weather has taken its toll on this weekend's concert featuring Beres Hammond and Tarrus Riley - full story HERE
6.30pm UPDATE:A new alert has been released by the The Bahamas Department Of Meteorology and can be read HERE.
3.25pm UPDATE: Dozens of residents in the southern Bahamas are trapped inside their homes as floodwaters continue to rise during the slow, dangerous passage of Hurricane Joaquin - fully story HERE
2.20pm UPDATE: Prime Minister Perry Christie has said the government has to use the impact of Hurricane Joaquin as a “teachable moment” - full story HERE
2.00pm UPDATE: THE Ministry of Education has advised residents of Grand Bahama on Thursday that schools will be dismissed immediately as a result of weather conditions from Hurricane Joaquin.
Special consideration has been given to the fact that some teachers and students have to cross the Fishing Hole Road and the police on the island have announced closure to that roadway, the ministry announced.
Parents are encouraged to check the ministry’s Facebook page for more updates.
1.00pm UPDATE: Photos of the storm have been posted on social media:
The latest alert from The Bahamas Department Of Meteorology can be read HERE
10am UPDATE: The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has said that all schools in MICAL, Long Island, Exuma, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador are closed due to Hurricane Joaquin.
Schools in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Bimini and the Cays, Andros, and Abaco remain open today.
The Ministry said there will be an update at 6pm.
9.15am UPDATE: Some minor flooding and storm surge has been reported but there were no immediate reports of casualties or significant damage as the storm reached the outer islands, said Captain Stephen Russell, the director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency on Thursday morning.
Joaquin was a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 120mph and hurricane strength winds extending 35 miles from the eye, the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said. Forecasters said it could intensify. The centre of the storm at 8am was about 10 miles north of Samana Cays, Bahamas, and moving west-southwest at 5 mph.
San Salvador, Cat Island and Rum Cay were expected to experience the most significant effects before the storm begins an expected shift toward the north, forecasters said.
Thursday 8.20am UPDATE: Hurricane Joaquin is now a Category 3 storm - the latest Bahamas Meteorology alert is HERE.The alert says in part “A HURRICANE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE NORTHWEST AND CENTRAL BAHAMAS WHICH INCLUDES THE ISLANDS OF THE ABACOS, BERRY ISLANDS, ELEUTHERA, GRAND BAHAMA, NEW PROVIDENCE, LONG ISLAND, EXUMA AND ITS CAYS, CAT ISLAND, RUM CAY AND SAN SALVADOR - A HURRICANE WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR BIMINI AND ANDROS.”
Schools in New Providence will be open today - expect another update on that at 6pm. Summit Academy will be closed at noon today.
Wednesday 10.30pm UPDATE:
Bahamasair wishes to advise the travelling public, that due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Joaquin, the following flights will be cancelled tomorrow October 1, 2015.
• Long Island
• Georgetown, Exuma
• All Eleuthera Flights
• Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands
Persons travelling to and from these destinations tomorrow can contact our reservations department to make alternate reservations. All other domestic flights and flights to Florida will operate as usual.
A further update will be provided at noon tomorrow and advisories will be issued (via radio and also posted to Bahamasair.com) as new information becomes available.
2015 HURRICANE SHELTERS LIST HERE