THE process for the restoration of utilities, as well as certain infrastructure in Grand Bahama in the wake of Hurricane Irma has started.
In a two-hour press conference at the Emergency Operation Centre, officials from the Grand Bahama Power Company and the Grand Bahama Utilities Company indicated they expect full services of electricity and water to be restored to Grand Bahama by the end of the week, if not sooner.
At the press conference, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest, Minister of State for Grand Bahama Senator Kwasi Thompson, officials and representatives from all of the relevant agencies revealed their respective plans for the restoration of Grand Bahama.
Because Grand Bahama did not suffer the full impact of Hurricane Irma on Sunday, it was revealed that restoration will not be as difficult and prolonged as it was following Hurricane Matthew last October.
“God is good, and we could all agree that Grand Bahama and most of the densely populated part of the country dodged a bullet this time,” said Mr Turnquest.
“The memories of (Hurricane) Matthew are fresh in our minds and so we certainly want to acknowledge and give God thanks for having spared us from a devastating storm.”
According to officials, power, water and other utilities are expected to be restored within a short period of time. Mr Turnquest pointed out that Grand Bahama International Airport will re-open by today.
However, because all of the power has not yet been restored to the airport, there will be no pre-clearance services for anyone traveling from GBIA on US flights. All passengers will have to post-clear once they arrive within the United States.
“That (pre-clearance) will not happen for a day or two, because officers will need to return to Freeport and to get their systems up and going,” explained Mr Turnquest. “So, it will be a day or two before we have full operations at the US Pre-Clearance Terminal.
“Additionally, Freeport Harbour Company, as well as Freeport Container Port will re-open for normal services on Tuesday, September 12.”
While jubilant about “minor” damage caused by Hurricane Irma to the island, Mr Turnquest said that his prayers were with those who did suffer significant personal loss to their homes and property as a result of tornadoes that touched down in Grand Bahama on Sunday.
On Sunday night, officials revealed that some 100 residents had been affected by tornados in Grand Bahama due to Irma’s passage. The tornadic activity began around 12.45pm.
Assessment teams were dispatched from NEMA and shortly before 6pm Sunday, it was reported that about 12 homes were struck and one business, Colina Insurance Company on the Mall Drive, received roof damage.
The Lodge Hall on East Sunrise Highway was also affected with significant roof destruction.
Other affected areas included Alexis Drive in Imperial Park where eight homes were damaged – three with significant damage and five with minor roof damage along with devastation of doors and windows.
An eight-unit building on East Beach Drive had significant roof loss; a residence on Tamarind Street had significant roof damage and the rear bedroom was destroyed.
Those affected were placed with family or friends.
Mr Turnquest called for other residents to not only pray for those who suffered loss in Hurricane Irma, but that they also respect the privacy and dignity of those who may have lost so much. At the same time, he asked Grand Bahamians to be “their brother’s keeper” and lend a helping hand.
“You would have heard that Bimini suffered significant damage and it may take a little longer to have full restoration there,” said Mr Turnquest. “There was also significant damage in other islands like Ragged Island and in the southern islands like Mayaguana and Inagua.
“These Bahamians will require our assistance. As persons from around the country helped us when we were in need last year, we call on Bahamians here in Grand Bahama to lend their assistance to your brothers and sisters in those islands.”
The Ministry of Works removed shutters to the entrances of government buildings and schools to allow officials to go in and assess their respective properties and offices. Schools in Grand Bahama received minor damage and are expected to be re-opened later this week.
“We are in the process now of repatriating those individuals who were evacuated from the southern Bahamas and from other islands to Grand Bahama,” said Minister Turnquest. “And I want to thank the minister of state for Grand Bahama and all of the people who worked along with him and with the Emergency Operations Centre, both here in Freeport, as well as in East End to help us get through Hurricane Irma with little devastation.”