By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
RESIDENTS in San Salvador yesterday compared living through Hurricane Joaquin to being trapped in a “hell zone”, the storm so violent and devastating that it seemed like something “you would only see in a movie”.
The residents, trying to piece their lives back together in the aftermath of the category four storm, described Joaquin as the “worst” they had ever seen in their lives.
One resident told The Tribune that experiencing the wrath of Hurricane Joaquin was something he “would not wish on my worst enemy”.
But amid the devastating stories is a spirit of survival. Residents on the island said while the storm was traumatising and they have lost their possessions, they were happy to be alive and are ready to start over.
The residents’ testimonies came during a generous emergency relief effort from charitable organisation HeadKnowles, which donated over 23,000lbs of aid to residents in San Salvador. The delivery was made possible by ‘SOS - Save Our South’, a hurricane relief campaign initiated by The Tribune Media Group that aims to build on and enhance the relief efforts of all of the organisations now collecting supplies for the islands affected.
The recovery efforts continue to pour in for the southern islands, although many of those communities are bracing for a long road back to normality.
The slow moving storm significantly damaged a number of homes and buildings on San Salvador. The island is still without electricity as the building housing the Bahamas Electricity Corporation power plant on the island lost its roof in the storm and the machinery was exposed to the elements.
A small generator is being used to produce enough power for people to listen to the radio.
BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller said yesterday that power could be fully restored in as little as 10 days. He said this depends on the government moving with haste to hire subcontractors to “get the job done as quickly as possible”.
Mr Miller was instrumental in arranging the chartered Bahamasair 737 flights to the island yesterday and accompanied the volunteers and relief agencies.
Yesterday, San Salvador resident Timothy Keith Ferguson said up until last week he had seen his fair share of hurricanes, but none as violent as Hurricane Joaquin.
“That experience, I would not wish on my worst enemy,” he said. “I can’t really explain it or put it in words. Words cannot describe what we felt during this hurricane. Words cannot really express what was going on.
“I mean you could not see outside, everything was just moving and breaking up, roofs flying off. It’s like (being) in a hell zone. It was Desert Storm, like a war going on. It’s unexplainable to tell you the truth and it was very frightening. I’m still shaken up by it.”
For Ramon Miller, the devastation caused by Hurricane Joaquin was so sudden and unexpected it was almost surreal.
“It’s something that you would only see in a movie,” he said. “I never experienced nothing like that before. I really don’t know what to say. It was devastating. I mean the stories that you hear they may sound fantastic but the stories are real. Very real.
“It was very traumatising for us because we live in the valley and we thought that we would be safe but the power just overwhelmed us,” he added. “Almost everything in the house was destroyed, all the sheet rock was messed up, all the children’s clothes, the wife’s clothes, my clothes. But I’m happy we made it out, we happy that we’re still alive and we’re ready to start over from day one.”
Another resident, Shaneka Walker, described having to stay at her sister’s split-level house for safety during the storm; however, her house ultimately suffered the same fate as many others on the island.
“My house, my roof is damaged,” she said. “I don’t have any shingles, everything caved in on my house. So it’s like I have to start back over from scratch, and it’s hard. Things already hard now, even with me working two jobs it’s still hard.”
Theophilus Cox, San Salvador’s island administrator, said the community seems to be holding up well, adding that the island is now focusing on the distribution of emergency relief supplies.
However, he said, residents were in need of more than just food and water.
“We’ve been getting quite a bit of food supplies but what we will definitely need is some building supplies, building materials because some of the houses have been badly damaged,” Mr Cox said. “So we’ll need quite a bit of shingles, that sort of thing.
He added: “It’s going to take quite a bit of effort to bring things back to normal. The team is on the ground now clearing up, and after this week going into next week we should be well on the way.”
Mr Miller, who was also on the ground in San Salvador yesterday, said he has advised Prime Minister Perry Christie and Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP Philip “Brave” Davis to hire subcontractors to restore electricity on the island “as quickly as possible”.
“If we could get those, I’d say within 10 days we could restore power totally to Rum Cay as well as San Salvador,” he told The Tribune. “It’s just a matter of getting the equipment which should be here by Thursday and mobilising the men, and giving them all the equipment that they need, and they’ll get it done.”
Amidst the chaos, one glimmer of hope has been what some have described as the quick and fulsome response of volunteers and people making donations. However, relief efforts have been complicated by flooding and the collapse of passageways, which have made getting items to key areas difficult, according to relief co-ordinators.
On Sunday, The Tribune visited Crooked Island as well as Rum Cay as part of a relief effort organised by Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner and Trans Island Airways, which has flown to the devastated islands since Saturday, carrying more than 100,000lbs of items such as water, medication, gloves, clothes and food to people in need.