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Unliveable: Pm Urges Remaining Ragged Island Residents To Evacuate

Hurricane damage on Ragged Island after Irma. Photo: Terrel W Carey/Tribune staff

Hurricane damage on Ragged Island after Irma. Photo: Terrel W Carey/Tribune staff

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

HEALTH and safety conditions on storm-stricken Ragged Island will only continue to deteriorate, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday as he urged the 18 remaining residents on the island to evacuate in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which has reduced most structures there to piles of rubble and rendered the island unlivable.

“They cannot stay here,” Dr Minnis said after he and a delegation saw for the first time the damage left by Irma and days after the Category Five monster hurricane ripped through the small southern island.

The island’s physical condition, exacerbated by the smell of rotting animal carcasses and the destruction of all essential services, led Dr Minnis to strongly urge those still on Ragged Island to leave until the small community can be restored.

“I’ve spoken to the residents; Ragged Island has been devastated,” Dr Minnis said following a walk through and discussion with those who remained on the island as Hurricane Irma battered their homes last week. “Every home has been destroyed. The health facility has been destroyed. The school has been destroyed. The teachers’ residence has been destroyed. There is no light. There is no water.

“As we walk about, you can smell the stench of dead carcasses, dead animals. The health conditions of the individuals will deteriorate and it’s essential that we get them off this island,” Dr Minnis said.

Many were understandably reluctant to leave the only place they’ve ever known as home, expressing concern for personal belongings.

“They are concerned about the safety of their residences, whatever materials they may have left behind. We will have the Defence Force dispatch a vessel here and the Defence Force will try to commence the cleanup and at the same time ensure that there is security,” Dr Minnis said.

Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper, who was part of the delegation Dr Minnis led to assess the southern Bahamas yesterday, suggested many of the residents had still not come to grips with the reality the island was essentially unlivable.

The government has arranged for a plane to evacuate all those who will heed the prime minister’s advice. It is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday at 1pm.

“We have spoken with residents,” Dr Minnis said. “They feel that they need at least 24 hours to get their belongings together, so we will have a flight here on Wednesday at least by 1 o’clock to bring them to New Providence. Some may choose to move to Exuma where they have families (but) they cannot stay here.

“Health conditions and their safety will continue to deteriorate in the next 24 to 48 hours.”

Asked how long it was expected to take to restore the island to normalcy, Dr Minnis said: “I am not a technocrat, I cannot answer that. The power is off. There is no health facility, no educational facility. I cannot give you a timeline. My concern at this particular time is the health and safety of the residents. That’s the concern of the government and that we will do.

“We will make arrangements to have a plane here on Wednesday at 1 o’clock,” the prime minister added.

In response to questions over whether it was mandatory for residents to move, the prime minister said nothing is compulsory at this time, but it is the government’s advice as conditions will only worsen.

Speaking to reporters in Nassau after the tour, Dr Minnis said officials will remain in Ragged Island to ensure residents’ safety until they are evacuated.

“While travelling back I have had discussions with Minister of National Security Marvin Dames who will make arrangements to ensure that one of his vessels is in the vicinity to ensure the protection of the residents there. So, at Cabinet we will further discuss that but all in all we know that Ragged Island has been decimated.

“There are only about 18 of them. We had the police who would have gone door to door to speak to each and every individual and all of them have family members, if not in New Providence in Exuma, so that is not an issue. The most important issue right now is getting them off that island . . .

“There are many shingles, plywood, etc and multiple exposed nails - you could imagine trying to walk about in a dark environment with exposed nails and puncture yourself absolutely no health facility, no doctor, no nurse then tetanus or some other problem sets in.

“If you speak to them after what they have gone through they will tell you that they don’t want to go through that again and it’s a lesson to all Bahamians that when the government states that they think that area should be evacuated I feel going forward Bahamians will heed that warning,” Dr Minnis said.

Yesterday Mr Cooper reinforced the prime minister’s words.

“This is not a good environment to be in,” Mr Cooper said. “I encourage the residents of Ragged Island to leave until we can get a better sense of how we can bring Ragged Island to normalcy.

“They are understandably reluctant but I believe in time, give them another night to really absorb what has just happened and I believe they will adjust to it. The circumstances are unhealthy and unsafe and therefore I urge them to take up residence elsewhere,” Mr Cooper said.

Last week, the government offered emergency evacuations for residents in the MICAL constituency and Ragged Island. The evacuations were not mandatory, although at the time Dr Minnis urged residents not to risk their lives and stay in harm’s way.

Dr Minnis said yesterday his government plans to tour Grand Bahama, Bimini and Inagua at a later date to inspect hurricane damage there.

Comments

TalRussell 1 week, 3 days ago

Comrades! Would it not be better for the residents of Ragged Island to stay put to begin the rebuilding of their island community?

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observer2 1 week, 3 days ago

Tal, you are completely wrong on this one.

Any town planning idiot with half an education or half a brain could have told the FNM or the PLP years ago that Ragged Island is neither viable or sustainable as a community.

<p>Google.com put the 2010 population at 72. I guess all of these people actually worked for the government because to operate the island you need an Administrator, BEC, Water and Sewerage, National Insurance, town planning, a School, an airport, a mail boat, an airline that is willing to travel at a financial loss to the island, a post office, Bank of the Bahamas, a food store, defense force, police etc. etc. The Church has already started to beg for cash to rebuild. But none of our “leaders” are addressing the real truth. That the island should be closed down.

The question is how much does Ragged Island actually cost the Bahamian public to run each year? $5 million a year? $10 million a year? We will never know because the ignorant government doesn’t do local government accounts, it all gets piled up into the General Fund. Who benefits from this lack of transparency? The government does because it is essentially perpetuating big government and their god like status.

There was absolutely no need for Minnis to hedge the question on when the residents of Ragged Island should return or to advise his “subjects” that he is “not a technocrat” therefore is not qualified to answer the simple question. Apparently Minnis isn’t much of a leader either. Minnis, please simply tell your “loyal subjects” the truth which is plain for anyone who has thought this through at a high level: The residents of Ragged Island should never return, they should gather together whatever they can salvage and be relocated by the Government.

Secondly, the Government should be truthful as to the real cost of rebuilding Ragged Island. Is it $10 million? Also, the Church needs to get real as well. Remember, every last thing down to a nail has to shipped at a tremendous cost to the island.

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conian7 1 week, 3 days ago

While you have a point on one hand, it is a person's right to decide where they want to live. This has been the home of these families for a long time.

Regarding the cost of government provisions/offices etc, there are ways to limit for a small population.

Persons who live in remote locations with small populations should 'expect less' in a sense in facilities.

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OldFort2012 1 week, 3 days ago

Anyone who has been to Rugged Island knows that its viability was always hanging by a thread. But it is a free country. If they want to live without electricity and water as if it was 100 years ago, up to them. But equally it is the Government's right to tell these people that it is becoming ridiculous spending fortunes to rebuild their infrastructure every year.

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TalRussell 1 week, 3 days ago

Comrade OldFort12, you might be right but only Ragged Islanders know much better than the politicians - what is best for them. PM Minnis is wrong without consultation to snatch their constitutional rights from under any island's population.
Personally speaking, I think the PM should focus the energy and resources of his red shirts regime - on rescuing Nassau from the criminal thugs.......... cause it might not be so long before the PM will be called upon to relocate Nassau's population.
Many Ragged Islanders, who have prospered in the nation's capital - might want to relocate their acquired assets towards rebuilding their Hometown island of Ragged Island?
Just free your immigration to examine what Ragged Islanders would have done with the $200 million 'gift horse' the former PLP handed over to a private, foreigner owned Freeport corporation - and the $200 million, was not blocked by the new red shirts regime.

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TheMadHatter 1 week, 3 days ago

This comment should apply to the entire Bahamas....long before the hurricane. We should all move to Jamaica and live in the mountains in the Rasta camps. A great improvement.

I like the comment above about costs. How much does it cost for all islands? We are now near 7 billion dollars in debt.

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DEDDIE 1 week, 3 days ago

What are the options. The hell hole they call Nassau...

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birdiestrachan 1 week, 3 days ago

Ragged Island should be re built. It seems to be a beautiful place and since there are not that many people living there it can not be that difficult. As far as doc going to Grand Bahama to inspect hurricane damage. Grand Bahama did not have a hurricane.

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OldFort2012 1 week, 3 days ago

A beautiful place? You have obviously never been there. It is a treeless rock in the middle of nowhere. It has nothing. And I mean nothing. You could not give it away for free.

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 3 days ago

Maybe Ragged Island will get a better break from the FNM than Long Island, Crooked Island, Rum Cay and Acklins got from the PLP (with Joaquin) .......... It looks bad but once they start cleaning up all of the debris, it will look far better ........ The thousands of island descendants who like to talk so proudly about their RI heritage can put their money and talents where their mouths are ......... No use complaining, just get busy.

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Maynergy 1 week, 3 days ago

Comrades, Partisans and Foes, what the Bahamas government did was remarkable but it is not sustainable. Needed are Strategic and Forward thinkers that will Set up the National Security Council of the Bahamas 2017 and also construct Hurricane resistance Housing that will be able to accommodate islanders from various regions in the Bahamas (In Hurricane Alley) that will be able to housed residents, instead of transporting thousands of people to New Providence Bahamas. Shelters should be built in a defined location or locations to accommodate all residents who may wish to leave and seek shelter. What do you think? "It always seems impossible, until it's done" Nelson Mandela

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Maynergy 1 week, 3 days ago

Yes what the people of Ragged island needs to hear is that we will rebuild again and build stronger and better. Not to have anyone much less the Prime Minister telling the people to leave. There is hope in disaster always. Build up the island and reassure the people that we are behind their efforts and encourage them to be strong and remember that as Bahamians this too shall pass..

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TalRussell 1 week, 3 days ago

Comrades! What would motivate a prime minister to show up on Ragged Island to read the residents the postmortem Hurricane Irma evacuation riot act?
Sir Roland, Pindling, Christie and Papa Hubert - would have landed on Ragged Island to bring comfort and reassurances from the government to the Out Islanders residents....that the government is here to tell you that we have your backs. We will return with a new surge of financial assistance, building materials and equipment's to rebuild bigger, better and stronger - your beloved Out Island community.
Comrades, why should any Out Islanders, ever trust this red shirts government, that if they evacuate their Out Islands - it will only be temporary?

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OldFort2012 1 week, 3 days ago

Tal, there is charity and there is stupidity. Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different outcome. How many times during your lifetime has Ragged Island been completely destroyed? At least 10 that I can remember. And every time we spend tens of millions of $ on a bunch of people to get a handful of votes. Because rebuilding their infrastructure serves no other purpose. Give them all Crown Land elsewhere of their choice (Long Island, Exuma...wherever) and a grant for building material and let this annual farce with Rugged Island be finally over.

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TalRussell 1 week, 3 days ago

Comrade OldFort202, who would've thought when they cast their votes on May 10, 2017, that they would be electing a prime minster to turn the Bahamaland into the Commonwealth's first colony - that's home to force-ably abandoned out islands - turned overnight into ghost out islands, villages and settlements?

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gbgal 1 week, 3 days ago

Time now to discuss repair, rebuilding, restoration Or Not! Hard decisions to be made by government and the residents...the country has no money to rebuild these southern islands. Do the residents have means to do so? Clean up should be completed and our Defence Force, and maybe unemployed persons could assist. After that, relocation in other islands or abroad until conditions improve. But those who are able need to earn a living and get their children back to school. Grand Bahama can't offer much but perhaps other islands like Abaco, New Providence, Exuma have opportunities. A long, hard road stretches ahead...

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John 1 week, 3 days ago

"Luke 21:10-13English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Foretells Wars and Persecution 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness."

Someone asked me what i would do if i was a resident of Ragged Island and ordered to evacuate. It was a question that need thought and foresight. When you look at what is happening in the US and Canada with the uncontrollable forest fires that consume homes and disrupt lifestyles from time to time. And of late the fires are more frequent and the duration much longer. Harvey destroyed Houston and they are going to rebuild. Katia hit Mexico just after an earthquake shook that country to pieces, Tampa got a storm for the first time in 100 years. In fact the entire Florida peninsula has been disrupted by one storm event. Atlanta Georgia has been given a storm warning for the first time in history. Then to the south of us many islands and island nations were near completely destroyed, The Turks and Cacios islands, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbadua, parts of Haiti and Dominican Republic and even more devastation in Cuba. Bimini was ran-shacked, and West End, Abaco, Long Islands hit numerous times by various hurricanes. Then there is the threat of North Korea setting off nuclear bombs and The US responding in kind, if not more deadly. Times are not normal. No where on this planet. And when we start to call in the hens and huddle together in the corner of the room (Bahamas), we make ourselves more vulnerable, more likely for extinction. After all that, I think to rebuild. . . "Psalm 27:13-14New International Version (NIV)

13 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

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banker 1 week, 3 days ago

Ezekiel 23:20 is more accurate.

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SP 1 week, 3 days ago

V. Alfred Gray should be consulted before any final decisions are made. Surely, his track record of years of public service to these people speaks for itself, and his extensive knowledge of caves they could live in until homes are rebuilt would be useful.

Why not ask Perry Gladstone Christie to go down and perform his famous shuffle and talk total crap with innumerable indefinable humorous riddles which would be helpful in further confusing, but none the less lifting these peoples spirits, giving them hope with his classic promises for fools.

Let's also stay mindful that Hubert Alexander Ingraham could play his role by asking all Bahamians to totally ignore the plight of a few suffering Bahamians in Ragged Island and instead donate funds to his people in Haiti as he did with suffering, homeless Bahamians living on Grand Bahama after Haiti's 2010 devastating earthquake.

Indeed, PM Sheriff Minnis has his work cut out for him, with no sensible playbook to reference after decades of failed governace and unabridged political stupidity!

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John 1 week, 2 days ago

Do who the caps fits@banker.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 2 days ago

Inagua, Mayaguana, Ragged Island and Acklins should be declared national wild life preserves unfit for human inhabitants. The entirety of these islands belongs under the control The Bahamas National Trust as a matter of national policy with the understanding that the Bahamas Government will play no role whatsoever in the fitness of these islands for human inhabitants, period! Re-building the infrastructure of these hurricane prone islands every several years to support their very small populations is prohibitively expensive and, frankly, endangers our entire nation by putting its financial well-being at grave risk.

Spanish Wells fishermen will tell you our Defense Force does little to protect these islands and the fishing grounds around them as is. As for the inhabitants reluctant to relocate elsewhere in the Bahamas, they deserve to be under another island nation's flag. Why would any right thinking Bahamian endorse the costly rebuilding of the infrastructures of Inagua, Mayaguana, Ragged Island and Acklins after each and every hurricane when we know that the frequency and intensity of major hurricanes (CAT 4 & 5) is increasing due to global warming trends among other things?! The insanity of doing so would surely exacerbate our nation's existing dire financial predicament, resulting in the entire Bahamas becoming a failed state ripe for the picking by other countries.

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licks2 1 week, 2 days ago

I would go and live on that Island if its present inhabitants should abandoned their rights to those lands. . .as for tall. . .come with me. . .and I hope there will never be internet so we can be rid of your nonsense drivel posts! Lol!

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proudloudandfnm 1 week, 2 days ago

How is Ragged even an island? Reef would be a much more accurate description. Makes no sense to rebuild.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 2 days ago

The taxes paid by the few inhabitants of these uninhabitable islands is not even enough to pave a few miles of road much less airport, utilities, mailboat dock, etc. etc. If they're stupid enough to want to continue living down there, then let them do so completely tax free but without any support whatsoever from all other much more sensible Bahamian tax payers. Yes they have a right to be fools, but the rest of us also have a right to treat them for what they are, i.e. fools! Forget all the charming history behind life in these most southern islands of the Bahamas. The reality is global warming has sea levels rising and hurricanes are now much more frequent and intense.

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TigerB 1 week, 2 days ago

I know I will get in trouble for this, so I ask forgiveness before I begin my post. Still I wonder why Bahamians in general still depend on a goverment in crisis like these. And its the vast majority. But we have some sort of natural disaster every year. Just across the street from me a tornado tore a roof off here in Freeport... so many of us live as though we have a rich country, we don't buy insurance and we are satisfied with handouts.. from the government, other people... maybe we need to do proper planning, I don't know, but last year it was a mess. Same again this year. Next year it will be the same because we are in the hurricane belt. Yes.. I know most are unfortunate, so what do we do? get mad if the government because he didn't pay our bill, fix our houses and businesses ? What do we do. we all are struggling, but one thing I do every year is make sure pay my house insurance. Freeport has its share of horror stories. life is a continuous cycle, each year we have spring, summer, fall and winter... summer is hurricane time, maybe we will start preparing in the other three seasons...forgive me.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 2 days ago

You are no doubt an insurance salesman or agency owner who can afford to pay your heavily discounted exorbitant hurricane insurance premiums!

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