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Constitutional Limits Prove A Challenge For Evacuation Bill

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

WITH as many as seven hurricanes expected in the region this summer, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the mandatory evacuation bill Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis promised last year is still in draft form and "difficult to craft because of constitutional limitations".

"Freedom of movement also means freedom not to move, no matter the threat," he said.

Mr Bethel was asked yesterday if the bill would be passed before the official start of the hurricane season next month. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) expects between three seven hurricanes this year.

One thousand people were flown to Nassau from the southern Bahamas last year before Hurricane Irma made landfall. Hundreds failed to heed the government's evacuation plea, however, prompting Dr Minnis on September 10 to say a mandatory evacuation bill would be tabled in the House of Assembly the following week. The bill never arrived.

"I think it is essential that we have a mandatory evacuation [law]," Dr Minnis said. "Not only that, we must have a manual for evacuations so that we will have guidelines. A storm may be a category one or two, and that may not be a requirement for evacuation. But we would look and a requirement may be for a category four or five (storm). Those are the things that have to be discussed."

Like Dr Minnis, Former Prime Minister Perry Christie said several times that mandatory evacuations were necessary, although his administration never moved to introduce a law allowing for it.

NEMA's forecasts for this season are based on 30-year average predictions and project a total of 14 named storms and seven hurricanes, three of which will be of Category 3 or above.

Their findings are in line with a preliminary seasonal forecast released by Colorado State University (CSU) last month.

CSU's report predicted this hurricane season will be "above average".

The report also included the probability of major hurricanes making landfall.

For the entire US coastline, this is 63 percent; 39 percent for the US East Coast, including the Florida peninsula; 38 percent for the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle; and 52 percent for the Caribbean.

In an interview with the Tribune on April 6, Chief Meteorologist Basil Dean urged residents to start making preparations.

"Tend to those roofs that may have some needs and also you want to ensure that your shutters and things are in good working order," he said.

"This is also a good time to do tree trimming because we are now into spring, so you want to make sure those things are taken care of especially those near power lines."

Comments

sheeprunner12 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Soooooooo, how do we interpret The Bahamas Constitution .......... Article 25.2(a)(i)?????

What does it mean that - this right can be suspended where reasonably required in the interest of public safety?????

Why should the Government put its public servants at risk (public safety) to assist (private) civilians when a public catastrophe (hurricane, tsunami etc.) is approaching?????

How can anyone say that a mandatory evacuation plan is contravening their "freedom"???

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John 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Well mandatory evacuation orders also avoids liability or the government as is the intention in The United States. In other words if a mandatory evacuation order is given and you chose to ignore it, as the constitution guarantees you the right to do, then through the issuance of the evacuation order, the government excludes itself from any liability from the loss of life and/or injury resulting from any party refusing to obey the order. Some states and counties have gone as far as getting persons who refuse to leave a document indicating that they have been made aware of impending disaster and they have consciously made the decision to stay. Now where it becomes tricky is where minor children are involved and the question must be determined as to who has the greater power: the parents/ guardians or the state. The same applies for the elderly or persons suffering from mental challenges that may cause their judgement to be impaired or not functional. Sometimes this may require going before a judge and getting a specific order to have these persons evacuated for their own safety.

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Agreed ......... No mandatory evacuation plan in place ...... But Bahamians are "free" to live wherever they want, "free" to stay in their flood-prone homes during a hurricane ....... and expect "free money" from the same Government who is pleading for them to get to higher ground for their personal safety.

Something surely does not sound right about this scenario .... But again, this is what an ill-disciplined people expect from a Government that does not like to be pro-active or prepared.

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John 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Well @ sheep runners at one point The Grove of East Street was known to be prone to flooding and orders were given that no additional homes could be built in that area. But some 10 to 25 years after the. fact, Pinewood comes along. And even though it was known to be prone to flooding, they allowed houses to built and sold to unsuspecting homeowners who continue to suffer from the flooding problem today. No stop order was ever issued for homes being built in the area or to stop property being sold. Even a requirement by Ministry of Works to raise foundations by two blocks could have saved homeowners thousands of dollars in lost furniture and personal effects and the discomfort of having their homes flooded every other year.

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 4 weeks ago

What is your point?????? ......... My point still stands

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