A model of the Family Relief Centre’s dome structure that will include plumbing, drainage, a sewer system, and electricity. Photos: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
The $6.4m temporary dome city in Abaco is expected to only be in use for two years, according to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
During an update of Abaco post-hurricane, Dr Minnis also disclosed officials are eyeing a Wednesday start date for commercial flights at Leonard M Thompson International Airport and are expecting schools there to be opened in January 2020. Additional economic concessions are also under consideration for the storm devastated island, Dr Minnis added.
Seven weeks after Dorian pummelled the island, the prime minister urged Bahamians who sought temporary relief in the United States to come home. He said they were needed to help with the rebuilding efforts and reiterated that additional steps had been taken to enforce security measures.
Dr Minnis said government was ensuring they would be accommodated at the family relief centre, adding a similar concept was being planned for Grand Bahama.
“The rebuilding of Abaco is going to take a long time but the rebuilding has begun,” Dr Minnis told reporters yesterday during a press conference following visits to Abaco and its cays over the weekend.
“We must rebuild with great care and attention so that Abaco and the Abaco cays are stronger and more resilient especially in the face of threats from climate change (that) include stronger hurricanes and rising sea levels.
“My team visited the site for the family relief centre. The land has already been cleared. Infrastructure materials are arriving. Trailers for the workers to build the domes are at the site.
“The infrastructure from the family relief centre will remain in place to accommodate permanent housing on the same site, which is near the Spring City Subdivision and the temporary domes will be removed as individuals and families move to their permanent location.
“The family relief centre will be located on government land and will be enclosed and it is anticipated that the family relief centre will be in place for approximately 24 months or two years.”
There have been concerns that the centre is being constructed near a well field in Spring City. However, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis said this was untrue.
Dr Minnis also said: “I know that Bahamians were placed in shelters in the Florida area and I would have said repeatedly that those Bahamians must now return back because the US would have given them a certain length of time and many of them will be accommodated if they’re from Abaco. They will be accommodated in the family relief centres that we’re constructing and similarly in Grand Bahama.
“Accommodations are being made for them to return to because they are needed to help rebuild our Bahamas.”
While work has begun in various settlements of Abaco, Dr Minnis said there was still a long road to recovery and reconstruction ahead.
He said because Marsh Harbour and the adjacent areas are larger and contain more public infrastructure than the Abaco cays, these communities would require considerably more reconstruction.
“Even as we rebuild Marsh Harbour and the adjacent communities we are working to rebuild the cays as quickly as possible and this will help with economic recovery in general and will help the people on the Abaco mainland to recover.
“For example Elbow Cay employed approximately 400 people from Marsh Harbour. The quicker communities like Hope Town and Elbow Cay are rebuilt the more employment there is for residents of the mainland.
“In addition to general reconstruction efforts we must get as much regular economic activity as possible going throughout Abaco including in areas not destroyed by hurricane Dorian.
“But allow me to emphasise that the central government is deploying hundreds of government personnel from every ministry and major agencies on the ground to coordinate and to help with recovery and reconstruction,” Dr Minnis also said.
“We are ensuring security. We are boosting security and ensuring proper security on the ground.
“Those who break the law will be dealt with appropriately and prosecuted. I want to repeat this, those who break our laws will be dealt with and prosecuted. Law and order are essential for rebuilding.
“We have had to reestablish the workings and the instruments of government on the ground. This is the largest deployment of government personnel in the history of our country in the aftermath of a natural disaster.”
The prime minister said beginning this week, Abaco residents will be able to utilise the government’s ‘one stop shop’ in their rebuilding efforts.
The ‘one stop shop’ facility includes the Ministry of Works, Department of Environmental Health, Department of Customs, local government, the National Insurance Board, Department of Inland Revenue and the Small Business Development Centre.