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Editorial: What Can We Learn From Tragedy?

What must it take?

To board a boat overloaded with others and take to the sea for day after day in the hope of a new life. What must it take?

The first sign of the disaster that struck off the shore of Abaco was seen on Saturday morning. Tourists saw two floating bodies and sent out a mayday.

As rescuers arrived, the full picture of the disaster became horrifyingly clear.

Survivors say there were 45 people on board the boat that was torn in half when it struck the reef off Abaco on Friday night.

In the dark, those on board scrambled to survive. Only 17 did. Rescuers found themselves hampered as they tried to help those in trouble by tiger sharks circling the wreckage, feeding on those who didn’t make it out.

Even those who survived were in a weak state, dehydrated by days at sea without enough drinking water.

For those who died, a further sadness is that their bodies will go unclaimed. Family members in The Bahamas who come forward know they may have to answer awkward questions, as well as take on the cost of the funeral.

These are the dangers these migrants face, each one, as they board the boats that head northwest towards our islands.

Even with this tragedy, will that stop the boats? Will that stop the migrants? Or will the need to escape the life they have in Haiti keep driving this migration?

We applaud the efforts of Dr Jean Paul Charles, the president of the League of Haitian Churches, to raise awareness of the hazards that migrants will face, even as he recognises the difficulty of discouraging people from making the trip.

“As much as we do to spread our message, people will still risk their lives to come… so many people have died, lost their lives.”

Against that, we wish the government was more forthcoming in speaking about the tragic loss of so many lives. These may not be Bahamian citizens, they may have sailed into our shores from elsewhere, but the loss of lives must not be felt any less.

We also wish the government would speak out on behalf of the rescuers, for those who worked to save people’s lives while surrounded by the most gruesome of scenes.

Of course, the greatest way to make a difference is to make a substantial change in Haiti itself, to bolster a nation still scarred by the after-effects of disasters both natural and man-made.

That may be beyond the powers of our solitary nation – but the world together can see the consequences of some of its own intervention.

The worst of this boat tragedy is that it likely won’t be the last.

Will it make a difference in how we tackle the problem of migrants trying to improve their lives even by risking them? Will it make us reach out with more compassion to ask our neighbour how we can all change things for the better?

What must it take?

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