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Sunday's Hurricane Joaquin Updates

10.10pm UPDATE: Don't miss Monday's Tribune for full coverage of the Hurricane Joaquin aftermath - with stories and photographs from the impacted areas.

8.30pm UDPATE: A US Coast Guard official says two cutters will search through the night for any sign of the El Faro, a missing US cargo ship with 33 people on board.

Chief Petty Officer Bobby Nash says the cutters Resolute and Northland will stay in the search area in the southeastern Bahamas as the planes and helicopters taking part in the search return to their bases for the night.

CPO Nash said the only confirmed trace of the El Faro is a life ring with the ship's name on it that was found on Saturday. Search teams on Sunday found a debris field that consists of wood, Styrofoam and pieces of shipping container but authorities have not yet confirmed that the material came from the ship.

8.10pm UDPATE: Schools on islands that have been impacted by Hurricane Joaquin - San Salvador, Rum Cay, Crooked Island, Long Island and Acklins - will remained closed until further notice, the Ministry of Education Science and Technology has announced.

Schools on Abaco, Andros and the Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama and New Providence will resume on Monday, as will the College of the Bahamas and the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institution.

8.00pm UPDATE: The Tribune's Rashad Rolle filmed these scenes of devastation on Crooked Island today.

6.40pm UPDATE: NBC news has reported that Miami billionaire Mike Fernandez, founder of the venture capital firm MBF Healthcare Partners, has been flying his helicopter back and forth from Long Island to bring aid to those affected by Hurricane Joaquin.

5.20pm UPDATE: A US Air Force C-130, deployed in the search in Bahamian waters for missing US cargo ship El Faro, landed late Sunday afternoon reporting a 225 square mile debris field of styrofoam, wood, cargo other items - Full story HERE.

4.30pm UPDATE: Mario's Bowling and Family Entertainment Palace is inviting people, organisations, charities and groups who wish to donate food, clothing or supplies of any kind, to bring them to Mario's at Summer Winds Plaza on Sunday from 3pm until 9pm and throughout the week from 9am to 10pm.

Mario's will be a distribution point and an outlet. The facility and surrounding spaces are available for use.

4.00pm UPDATE: These photos tweeted by Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade show some of the damage to buildings on Crooked Island.

3.00pm UPDATE: THE international community is rallying to support The Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Joaquin - Full story HERE.

2.50pm UPDATE: This Weather Channel video shows some of the damage and flooding on Long Island after Hurricane Joaquin.

1pm UPDATE: A call has gone out in Exuma for supplies to be taken to Georgetown airport. A seaplane is en route to take donations to Clarence Town, Long Island

12.55pm UPDATE: Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade tweets: "Inspector Rodgers on ground in Cabbage Hill Long Isld. He has checked Berrys, Roses and Hamiltons. He has no report of deaths."

12.40pm UPDATE: Another photo gallery shows the scale of the flooding in Long Island.

12.30pm UPDATE: Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade says he is expecting an update from police in south Long Island about casualties from Hurricane Joaquin "shortly".

In tweets from @COPGreenslade he said: "Commish just briefed Hon. PM and gave him sitrep from Ofcs now on the ground in South Long Isld. Devastation in Hamilton, Roses, Berrys. Awaiting direct conversation with police on ground in Hamilton and Berrys on amount of casualties. Expected shortly."

12.20pm UPDATE: We've uploaded a photo gallery from the HeadKnowles Facebook group showing some of the damage on Long Island.

12.15pm UPDATE: The US Coast Guard reports that crews have spotted multiple items in the water in the vicinity of the last known position of El Faro, the missing cargo ship.

12 noon UPDATE A Sky Bahamas flight will be leaving San Salvador today at 2pm for those needing to fly out of the island.

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: 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 can be read HERE.

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.

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.

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