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Editorial: Hear Of Looting? Contact Authorities

Throughout the past day, we have received reports at The Tribune of looters operating in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.

The stories are sometimes sketchy, sometimes lurid - and often difficult to pin down.

This is not surprising given the difficult nature of contacting both Abaco and Grand Bahama - our own reporting team on Abaco has had difficulty themselves getting the word out with the communications network suffering.

Last night, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and Minister of National Security warned of the danger of spreading stories without absolute certainty of their truth.

The difficulty is this - police and defence force officers in the hurricane zone are frantically working to reach people in need of rescue. They are trying to get people out of flooded and ruined homes. They are organising food for those who are able to remain on the islands, and evacuation for those who need it. All the time they are dealing with people who are tired, hungry and deeply hurt, possibly physically but certainly emotionally.

The goal of those officers is to get to people who need help - and provide it as quickly as possible.

Now if they hear reports of looting, then they may have to break off from their search or reduce the manpower involved while they send people to investigate it.

One such story was a report of shots being fired at a US Coast Guard helicopter. Officers diverted from their tasks to investigate - but found nothing to back up the claim.

The US Embassy also put out a notice to say the Coast Guard had encountered no problems - and had only been welcomed.

We do not say this to dismiss the possibility of trouble in the affected areas - the extra defence force officers being drafted to the areas, including 150 from Jamaica, are notably there to provide safety and security.

We would also be surprised if there wasn’t some form of looting taking place as desperate survivors try to grab whatever they need to keep going.

But at the same time, there are half-formed reports being shared around that result in resources being diverted at the time they are most needed.

This also comes at a time when there is almost information overload with the number of people reaching out and passing on locations of family to check on.

So if you’re not sure, think twice before sharing these posts on. The real place to contact if a crime is being committed is the emergency services - the police, defence force officers in the area, NEMA officials - not Facebook or Twitter.

If these things are happening, we absolutely must call for help - but it will come quicker and more accurately if we turn to those equipped to deal with it rather than social media.

As for those who have taken part in looting, Dr Minnis and his government have pledged to come down hard on those responsible. We back such action completely. Let’s help officials to make that happen - and not waste their time along the way.

Tragedy within tragedy

In the middle of dealing with a national tragedy, the prime minister has had to deal with a personal one.

It was revealed yesterday that Dr Minnis’ brother, Cecil Bosfield, has died. It is understood he died in Florida on Tuesday.

We are in the very early days of response to the disaster of Hurricane Dorian, but the prime minister has so far conducted himself with dignity and determination. Learning that he has also had to bear a family loss in the midst of it all makes it all the more notable that he has been on the front line of the emergency response.

We imagine that Mr Bosfield would have been very proud of his brother in this moment, and we send our own condolences to Dr Minnis on his loss.

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