6.45pm UPDATE: The Ministry of Education has advised parents of students from the islands impacted by Hurricane Joaquin to contact Deputy Director for School Management Joel Lewis to have the process fast-tracked for having students relocated to schools in another island.
The ministry said like most, if not all of the structures on those affected islands, schools were severely damaged or completely destroyed.
“We are mindful that many students will be moving to New Providence and other islands to live with family members and will need to be registered in a new school,” the ministry said. “We want to make this process as seamless and hassle free as possible. We appeal to parents to enrol students as soon as possible in order to bring some degree of normalcy back to their lives and to ensure that their education is not interrupted in the midst of all that is taking place.
“Given the circumstances facing our country at this time, we want to be sensitive to the needs of our fellow citizens, particularly the students of those islands and do whatever we can to make this transition as easy as possible.”
Mr Lewis can be reached at 502-8239, 502-8267 or 502-8244.
6.15pm UPDATE: The US Coast Guard broke the news to grieving family members on Wednesday afternoon that it was abandoning the search for the 33 mariners aboard a US container ship that sank in the Bahamas last week during Hurricane Joaquin.
An intensive search by air and sea over tens of thousands of square miles turned up one unidentified body in a survival suit and a heavily damaged lifeboat but no sign of survivors from the 790-foot El Faro, which was last heard from nearly from a week ago as it was being tossed around in rough seas off Crooked Island.
In announcing it would end the search at sunset, the Coast Guard all but confirmed family members' worst fears - that all hands were lost. On board were 28 crew members from the US and five from Poland.
"Any decision to suspend a search is painful," Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor said. "They did all they could."
6pm UPDATE: $1 million of a fine previously levied against BTC by the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has been donated towards hurricane relief efforts, the company's chief executive said on Monday.
Leon Williams said BTC's “collaboration” with URCA has resulted in the regulator directing two-thirds of the $1.5 million fine into the government’s Hurricane Joaquin relief fund.
BTC officials subsequently told The Tribune that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) will create a disaster relief fund from the donation.
Mr Williams also announced the launch of BTC's hurricane relief initiative "Each One Reach One", a text-to-donate initiative in which people can text a special number to donate funds to aid in providing relief to those suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin.
4.45pm UPDATE: Louis Bacon’s Moore Bahamas Foundation has announced a $250,000 donation toward the relief efforts and rebuilding needed after Hurricane Joaquin.
“The Bahamas are like a second home to me and my family,” said Louis Bacon. “We were saddened to learn of the devastation caused by Hurricane Joaquin in the southern islands. Having spent a great deal of time in these beautiful islands sailing, fishing and diving, my heart goes out to those families who live and labour in the Bahamas more remote islands, close to nature but most vulnerable. We pray that necessary aid gets to these islanders quickly and helps them in building back their lives, homes and communities.”
The Moore Bahamas Foundation, the Bahamas affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation founded by Mr Bacon in 1992, seeks to promote environmental education in the diverse ecosystems of The Bahamas.
4.40pm UPDATE: The US Coast Guard will suspend the search for the El Faro crew at sunset tonight after covering more than 172,000 sqnm in the search effort.
4.40pm UPDATE: These dramatic YouTube videos (above) from Stephen Aranha show hurricane relief supplies being airdropped on remote settlements that could not be reached by helicopter due to vegetation or debris on potential landing sites.
2.20pm UPDATE: This video shows volunteers busy assisting HeadKnowles in getting the vast amount of donated relief supplies as part of the SOS - Save Our South initiative ready for shipment to the islands at the Furniture Plus distribution centre on Tuesday afternoon.
12.15pm UPDATE: The Department of Inland Revenue has released the list of approved charities and non-profit organisations which are eligible to receive Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds on expenses with respect to Hurricane Joaquin relief efforts.
Where disaster relief operations are carried out by charitable and non-profit organisations, provisions exist under the VAT Act for exemptions and refund of VAT on expenses.
When submitting requests for refunds, approved registrants should complete Forms 14a Application for Refunds and Form 15 Schedule of Purchases.
Charities and non-profit organisations must register online and obtain a Tax Identification Number (TIN) from the VAT Department. They must ensure that the business name and TIN is quoted on all local expense receipts.
Charitable and non-profit organisations not named on the list can submit an application online for approval as a charitable organisation for VAT purposes using Form 46 Application For Approval of Charities.
Adventure Learning Centre
Bahamas Association for Social Health
The Bahamas Humane Society
Bahamas National Trust
Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation
Bahamas Urban Development Center and Youth
British Legion - Bahamas Branch
Cancer Society Eleuthera
Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay
Freeport Rugby & Football Club
Friends of The Environment
Governor General’s Youth Award Program
Grand Bahama Children’s Home
Hands For Hunger
One Eleuthera Foundation
Pilot Club of Nassau
Ride for Hope Bahamas
The Rotary Club of East Nassau
Sir Charles Hayward Library
Sister Sister Breast Cancer Support Group
The Bahamas Children’s Emergency Hostel
The Bahamas Diabetic Association
The Bahamas Red Cross Society
The Bahamas Red Cross Society - Abaco
The Bahamas Red Cross Society - Grand Bahama
The Charitable Arts Foundation
The National L.E.A.D Institute
The Nazareth Centre
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army Freeport
YMCA Grand Bahama Trading as YMCA Grand Bahama
11am UPDATE: The runway at the Deadman's Cay Airport in Long Island has been re-opened to receive relief goods only, according to an announcement by the Department of Civil Aviation. No passengers are permitted at this time, due to flooding on the apron.
WEDNESDAY 9am UPDATE: US federal investigators looking into the ill-fated voyage of a 790-foot freighter believed to have sunk off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin say they still hope to recover a data recorder from the ship as search crews continue looking for any survivors.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent a team to Jacksonville, Florida, on Tuesday to begin the agency’s inquiry, which will help determine why the captain, crew and owners of El Faro decided to risk sailing in stormy waters.
“We will be looking at everything. So, we leave no stone unturned in our investigation and our analysis. We want to find every bit of information that we possibly can,” Bella Dinh-Zarr, the NTSB vice-chairman, said.
In addition to the voyage data recorder - which begins pinging when it gets wet and has a 30-day battery life - the board will focus on communications between the captain and the vessel’s owner.
Another question is whether the five Polish workers, whose job was to prepare the engine room for a retrofitting, had any role in the boat’s loss of power, which set the vessel adrift in the stormy seas. Officials from Tote Inc, the vessel’s owner, say they don’t believe so. But the question - along with the captain’s decision to plot a course near the storm - will help investigators figure out why the boat apparently sank near Crooked Island, possibly claiming the lives of all 33 aboard.
The ship is believed to have gone down in 15,000 feet of water after reporting its last known position last Thursday. One unidentified body has been found.
“It’s just a tragic, tragic situation,” Ms Dinh-Zarr said.
The 41-year-old El Faro was scheduled to be retired from Caribbean duty and retrofitted in the coming months for service between the West Coast and Alaska, said Tote executive Phil Greene.
The El Faro and its equally aged sister vessel were being replaced on the Jacksonville-to-Puerto Rico run by two brand-new ships capable of carrying much more cargo and emitting less pollution.
When the El Faro left Jacksonville on September 29 carying vehicles, five workers from Poland came along with 28 US crew members to do some preparatory work in the engine room, according to Mr Greene. He gave no details on the nature of their work.
“I don’t believe based on the work they were doing that they would have had anything to do with what affected the propulsion,” said Mr Greene, a retired Navy admiral.
The El Faro had no history of engine failure, he said, and the company said the vessel was modernised in 1992 and 2006. Company records show it underwent its last annual Coast Guard inspection in March.
“We don’t have all the answers. I’m sorry for that. I wish we did,” Anthony Chiarello, said Tote Inc’s president and CEO. “But we will find out what happened.”
The American Bureau of Shipping, a non-profit organisation that sets safety and other standards for ships, did full hull and machinery inspections in February with no red flags, the company said.
F John Nicoll, a retired captain who spent years piloting the run to Puerto Rico, said he doubts the age of the El Faro was a factor, noting that there are many older ships plying US waters without incident.
He predicted the NTSB will look into whether company pressure to deliver the cargo on time despite the menacing weather played a role in the tragedy - something Tote executives have denied.
“Time and money are an important thing” in the shipping industry, Nicoll said. He said there should be emails and other messages between the captain and the company to help answer the question.
Tote executives said the captain, Michael Davidson, planned a heading that would have enabled El Faro to bypass Joaquin if the ship hadn’t lost power. The loss of power left it vulnerable to the storm’s 140-mph winds and battering waves more than 50 feet high.
They said Mr Davidson was in regular communication before the storm with the company, which can override a captain’s decisions. Mr Davidson attended the Maine Maritime Academy and has a home in Windham, Maine.
“He was a very squared-away sailor, very meticulous with details, very prudent, which is important when you’re working on the water. He took his job seriously,” said Nick Mavadones, a friend since childhood and general manager of Casco Bay Lines, where he and Mr Davidson worked together.
Still, seafarers who have long experience in the Caribbean say its weather can be treacherous. “It can go from calm, in a matter of five or six hours, to hell,” said Angel Ortiz, who retired as a merchant mariner after 39 years.
9.20pm UPDATE: This video shows relief supplies arriving at San Salvador on Tuesday.
Don't miss Wednesday's Tribune for the latest on the relief efforts as the recovery from Hurricane Joaquin gets underway.
5.25pm UPDATE: This photo gallery (left) shows relief supplies being loaded in Nassau before being unloaded in San Salvador.
1.30pm UPDATE: Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday called for persons donating to Hurricane Joaquin relief efforts to make all donations to the Bahamas Red Cross Society and its verified partners - but the post to his Facebook page got a mixed response - Full story HERE.
1.20pm UPDATE: Donations are pouring in to the SAVE OUR SOUTH hurricane relief campaign - Full story HERE. Pictured is Leslie Miller boarding a chartered Bahamasair flight today taking emergency relief supplies to San Salvador as part of the initiative
1.15 UPDATE: Anita Collie Pratt says she “cried out to God” and then prepared herself to die inside her home as Hurricane Joaquin beat down on Acklins - Full story HERE.
Today's print edition's lead story on the evacuation of 46 residents from Crooked Island can be read HERE.
12.15pm UPDATE: The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) sent another assessment team to the hurricane-ravaged areas of Acklins and Crooked Island on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Perry Christie and members of his Cabinet accompanied the Director of NEMA, Captain Stephen Russell, travelling in three separate flights into those areas hard hit by the storm to determine the extent of damage and the assistance needed to rebuild.
Among those who travelled were Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis; Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage; Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe; Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna Martin; Minister of Social Services and Community Development Melanie Griffin; Minister of Health Dr Perry Gomez; plus other government officials, technical representatives from the Department of Civil Aviation, the Bahamas Department of Meteorology, Department of Environmental Services and Bahamas Telecommunications Company.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force accompanied a plane loaded with emergency supplies such as food and water into those areas. An update will be issued once the team returns to New Providence.
11.30am UPDATE: The HeadKnowles Foundation will be making a substantial hurricane relief trip on Tuesday into San Salvador with a chartered 737 Bahamasair jet filled with hurricane relief items.
They are leading the SOS - Save Our South initiative, powered by a group of businesses and charitable organisations and launched by the Tribune Media Group who have come together to provide emergency relief supplies to residents in storm-devastated islands in the southern Bahamas. Volunteers intend to make two trips on Tuesday to unload an estimated 40,000lbs of relief supplies donated by thousands of Bahamians.
The Bahamasair sponsored flights, the first of which leaves at 12.30pm, are the latest collaborative effort of the group, involving the services and time of the planes and staff of the national flag carrier with the full backing and authorisation of Leslie Miller, the MP for Tall Pines, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Philip 'Brave' Davis. A team of volunteers will accompany the relief cargo to help offload the supplies and quickly turn around for a return flight.
This will be the latest in emergency relief supplies donated by the HeadKnowles team of volunteers who have already sent barge loads of supplies to Acklins, Crooked Island and Long Island and facilitated two trips from Abaco to Rum Cay and San Salvador.
“The outpouring of support from the public has been tremendous but so much more is still needed,” said Lia Head-Rigby who has been leading the effort along with co-founder Gina Knowles.
The public is asked to continue to make donations to the various collection outlets including the New Oriental Cleaners depots on Mackey Street, Prince Charles, Golden Gates and Cable Beach, Island Cellular in Palmdale and Mario’s Bowling Palace, Just Ship It in the Carey Plaza on Prince Charles Drive and Radio House on Shirley Street.
Any cheque donations should be made out to 'HeadKnowles Foundation'.
11.15am UPDATE: Ellison Greenslade, the Commissioner of Police, confirms that there is no general evacuation for Crooked Island as some residents are “self selecting” to leave for Nassau due to major damage to their homes.
He said on Tuesday morning that agencies are on the ground in Crooked Island assisting and that flights are going in and out of Colonel Hill Airport.
“There are no injuries nor deaths on Crooked Isld,” he tweeted on @COPGreenslade. “Many residents are leaving for Nassau due to damages to homes. There is no general evacuation for Crooked Island. Some residents are self selecting to leave due to major damages.”
TUESDAY 10.30am UPDATE: The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has joined the disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin by making a cash donation to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The party has also opened a bank account to facilitate a fundraising drive to further defray clean up, recovery and reconstruction costs that have been estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. The PLP is also accepting donations of supplies and food items at its headquarters.
"We appreciate that every red cent counts in this national and international effort that both tests and demonstrates our humanity towards each other,” said Bradley Roberts, the PLP chairman, in a statement on Monday night.
Senator Alex Storr, the party’s deputy chairman, will head the Party Disaster Relief Committee.
Cheques and deposits can be delivered to PLP Headquarters or any First Caribbean International Bank branch in the name of the account. Persons making direct deposits are asked to provide the Secretary General of the party, Barbara Pierre, with copies of their bank-issued receipts so that the party’s treasurer can reconcile the account and also keep appropriate records. Cash contributions can be delivered to PLP Headquarters and everyone is to be provided with receipts, as per usual as an audit trail is necessary.
Account details for cheques are:
a/c number: 100578098
a/c name: PLP Finance Group
Bank name: First Caribbean International Bank (Marathon Branch)
People wishing to donate various supplies and food items may deliver the same to PLP House on Farrington Road from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Mr Roberts said: "On behalf of the PLP, I wish to convey my heartfelt thanks at the outpouring of generosity and selflessness on the part of Bahamian citizens, the business community and the international community. I send out a clarion appeal to all Bahamians to join in this national humanitarian effort in the spirit of charity, one Bahamas, one people, indivisible under God.
"Last but not least, we remain eternally grateful to Almighty God for His tender mercies in sparing the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters given the ferocity of Joaquin; material goods can be replaced but precious lives are lost forever. In the midst of this crisis, The Bahamas remains a blessed nation that is highly favoured by God."
11.30pm UPDATE: Schools on Cat Island, Exuma, Inagua and Ragged Island will reopen on Tuesday, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has announced.
Schools on Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Island, Mayaguana, Rum Cay and San Salvador remain closed until further notice.
11pm UPDATE: Deadman's Cay Long Island remains the only airport closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin, the Department of Civil Aviation said on Monday night. The airports in Spring Point, Acklins, and Colonel Hill, Crooked Island, have been inspected and have now been re-opened for operations.
8pm UPDATE: Residents in some of the islands ravaged by Hurricane Joaquin are able to communicate with the outside world again after the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) initiated communications centres in Ragged Island, Inagua and Clarence Town, Long Island, on Monday, allowing them to make telephone calls and send emails free of charge.
In Ragged Island, customers can make telephone calls at the BTC office. In Inagua and Clarence Town, customers are able to make telephone calls and send emails from the BTC locations. Residents will be given three minutes each, allowing them to connect with loved ones. BTC said that, at the moment, calls are only able to leave the islands and customers are not able to make calls into the islands. The call centres were open until 7pm on Monday and will be open from 10am to 6pm on Tuesday.
On Sunday, BTC mobilised a 30-member assessment team to review the state of the network. The team travelled through San Salvador and Crooked Island and then flew into to Long Island on Monday. Initial reports show that there has been significant damage to BTC’s systems in each of the affected areas.
Monday's key points on Hurricane Joaquin:
• 46 people evacuated from Pitts Town Point, Crooked Island, who were at Colonel Hill Airport, have been airlifted - reportedly on two aircraft - to Nassau after Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade made a plea for help this afternoon.
• BEC said it will “take some time” to complete repairs and restore power to San Salvador, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, Rum Cay and the southern portion of Long Island - the areas left most devastated by the category four storm. Those areas have been without electricity since Joaquin began battering them on Thursday.
• A Royal Bahamas Defence Force impact team is in San Salvador, Acklins and Crooked Island to conduct damage assessments and assist those communities with immediate relief.
• The US Coast Guard says it has found the body of one crew member and a lifeboat from the El Faro, the US-based cargo ship that sank during Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas.
• BTC has restored communications to Ragged Island, Inagua and Clarence Town, Long Island, with residents able to make three-minute calls out free of charge and send emails. Initial assessments in the affected areas reveal "significant damage" to BTC's systems.
• Aircraft transporting relief goods to stricken islands will not be charged landing fees until further notice.