Standing in a damaged home in Lowe Sound, North Andros, Dr Hubert Minnis and Prime Minister Perry Christie share concerns over the massive destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew during an assessment trip on Saturday. Photo: NEMA
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis has called on the Christie administration to declare all of the areas devastated by Hurricane Matthew "disaster areas", insisting that the move should be paired with robust exigency orders and extensive rate cuts by financial institutions and private business to "help rebuild the country and keep Bahamians safe”.
In a statement on Sunday, the Killarney MP urged immediate action, claiming that despite its sheer strength, Hurricane Matthew was unable to break the resiliency of the Bahamian people.
Dr Minnis said after viewing the devastation of the massive category four storm first hand, he feels it necessary for the country to declare a state of emergency, granting it possible for immediate issuance of an exigency orders to allow homes, its contents, vehicles and or its parts that have been damaged or destroyed, to be replaced duty and VAT free.
Dr Minnis said these orders should remain in place for at least six months.
Further to that, he strongly encouraged all financial institutions to provide funding for replacement equipment or materials at reduced rates in these cases.
Dr Minnis’ statement read: "We need to take steps together to see that everyone gets back on their feet as quickly as possible in order for all Bahamians to recover. These two easy recommendations will alleviate a huge burden on Bahamians who must work to rebuild their lives and I think we can all agree that now is not time for anyone – either government or financial institution – to profit off the suffering and hardship of Bahamians in need.
"And while we all thank God that there have been no major injuries or deaths in the initial aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, I believe there are several other ways to ensure that we continue to safeguard our communities and the people."
Dr Minnis went on to recommend that the government advise individuals whose homes or businesses have been severely damaged not occupy such facilities until declared structurally sound.
He also called for the government to advise Bahamians not to drink well water unless - and until - it has been properly tested because it could be contaminated from the flooding, and urged immediate fogging in areas that were flooded to prevent against mosquito borne diseases including the Zika virus.
"It has been a horrific few days for Bahamians across our islands but thankfully there has not been any reported loss of life. We will get through this by working together with our neighbours, friends, and families to help each other rebuild. And I believe these recommendations can be solid first steps that the Government can take to meet those ends and to help Bahamians start to recover.”
“I wish to commend NEMA, our law enforcement agencies, and the many volunteers, for their combined efforts in working together, rescuing those in danger, and keeping our people safe. May God continue to bless our Bahamamaland,” the statement concluded.
In the wake of Hurricane Joaquin, the massive storm that ravaged the central and southern Bahamas for two days last year, Prime Minister Perry Christie declared an exigency order within a week of the storm's passage.
The order covered relief for residents in Acklins, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Exuma, Inagua, Long Cay, Long Island, Mayaguana, Rum Cay, Ragged Island, Samana Cay and San Salvador. The import of goods with tax exemptions was permitted for a period of 90 days beginning October 3, and further exemptions were given on motor vehicles.
Additionally, the government declared the waiver of landing fees, departure tax for non-commercial flights bringing in relief goods, and Department of Customs processing fees on imports in the above-mentioned islands for a period of one month. The islands of Acklins, Crooked Island, and Long Cay were also declared sufferance port areas for a period of three months.
The order was extended for a second 90-day period, which ended on April 3 this year.