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Death Toll May Be 'Staggering'

People search for salvageable items as they make their way through an area destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)

People search for salvageable items as they make their way through an area destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)

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Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands has expressed fears that the official death toll from Hurricane Dorian could reach “staggering” proportions.

He said the toll, officially at 30 up to press time, was already higher than officials expected.

“Let me say that I believe the number will be staggering,” Dr Sands said as a guest on 96.9FM’s “The Revolution”.

“…I have never lived through anything like this and I don’t want to live through anything like this again.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said the government is focusing on a large-scale evacuation plan for storm victims as many people come to grips with Hurricane Dorian’s massive destruction. The evacuation plan, he said, was expected to be made public at some point today.

As for how the government plans to handle growing death numbers, Dr Sands insisted they were well equipped.

“We have the capacity,” he said. “We have an army of public health medical teams and environmental health teams to deal with dead animals, to deal with water contamination and to deal with dead bodies.

“We have morticians moving into Abaco and they will be a team of morticians to handle the remains of those in Grand Bahama. We’re not doing this on the basis of an unknown script. We are following the advice and guidance of international best practices in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organisation and the World Health Organisation,” Dr Sands said.

While the government will need to hastily formalise its evacuation strategy as conditions in the affected areas will continue to deteriorate, Dr Minnis stressed that safety and security remained a concern.

Yesterday, Dr Minnis said many factors needed to be considered and decided upon regarding evacuees.

This includes accommodations for evacuees and whether it is prudent to relocate them versus bringing necessary accommodations to affected islands.

Government officials said that non-profit organisation HeadKnowles evacuated at least 300 people from hard-hit Abaco yesterday.

“We are aggressively doing all we can at this particular time,” Dr Minnis told reporters yesterday following a meeting with Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Allen Chastanet, Saint Lucian prime minister.

When asked about a plan to relocate those in Abaco, Dr Minnis said: “We are going to address that. We have a committee that will be looking at accommodation.

“That is something that we discussed this morning (yesterday) and Allen the chairman of CARICOM, he and I will discuss that further because he’s had that challenge himself in his country. So we will discuss that further as to the value of relocation versus the value of bringing in the necessary accommodations and what type of accommodations are most appropriate for our nation.

“We will have a Cabinet meeting to discuss those matters and as usual we will keep the press and the nation abreast as to our daily progress and what we’re doing so we won’t hold back anything from you, we’ll keep you abreast hopefully tomorrow (Friday),” he said further of an evacuation plan.

Speaking of safety and security issues as reports of looting in Abaco continue, Dr Minnis said several CARICOM countries have pledged to deploy armed forces if need be.

This would be in addition to the 150 officers that will be sent to the country from Jamaica’s Defence Force.

“We are concerned with security issues,” Dr Minnis said. “We know electricity is gone therefore nights are especially a challenge.

“We have had meetings with the CARICOM team that is here - Prime Minister Mottley, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, the chairman and the secretary general and the team from Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.”

He continued: “Jamaica has promised us 150 personnel to assist on the ground with security. Trinidad has committed a number, Dominica would be willing to input if necessary. Barbados is willing. St Lucia is willing. Basically all of the Caribbean nations are willing to input with security to assist us because we all recognise that’s going to be a problem.

“Then we’ll have a meeting tomorrow (Friday) and then an emergency Cabinet where we’ll address the issue with the children.

“We will ensure that education of the kids in Abaco continues so we will address that tomorrow to ensure that there is no break in their education that is essential for us,” Dr Minnis said.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 4 days ago

The leadership of the our government is rapidly becoming a national embarrassment of monumental proportions. While many of our fellow Bahamians are literally dying in the aftermath of Dorian, the leadership of our government is hob nobbing with dignitaries of other Caribbean countries and CARICOM on the ground in Nassau as if conference phone calls alone would not be sufficient during the critical period of rescue and relief operations. Imagine all of the precious time and resources being devoted to hosting and feting all of these distinguished visitors from other Caribbean countries at a time when our most senior government officials should be laser-like focused on saving Bahamian lives. Truly an embarrassing and very sad situation.

It's almost as if our government has decided the fate of suffering Bahamians stranded in Central and North Abaco under horrendous life threatening conditions is in the hands of other countries, primarily the U.S. government, and local private rescue groups from other Bahamian islands. The Minnis-led FNM government seems truly clueless about what its role should be in this nightmarish situation. Critical government decisions are being made way too late; the latest case in point being the need to relocate survivors and the identification of the evacuation facilities for them on New Providence. Our government's lack of careful planning for an event like this is nothing short of astonishing. I suspect the informal and formal cabinet meetings held since Dorian left us have been more about political survival rather than about survival of the struggling Bahamians barely clinging on to their lives in Abaco.

And where is the government of Haiti in all of this? The 14,000 plus illegal Haitian aliens in Abaco and Grand Bahama should be repatriated (relocated) back to Haiti; not relocated to New Providence where we already have a serious problem with 30,000 plus illegal Haitian aliens, many of whom live in disease threatening shanty towns. Why isn't the Bahamian government seeking the support of the U.S. government and other Caribbean nations in applying pressure to the government of Haiti to take back their own people who have been illegally residing in our country? The Minnis-led FNM government has enough of a problem as it is in just keeping the lights on in New Providence. We simply can't handle 14,000 plus more illegal Haitians aliens on New Providence Island in addition to the expected enormous influx of Bahamians from Dorian devastated Grand Bahama and Abaco. Where is the sanity and leadership within our government?!

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242in404 1 week, 4 days ago

Think back to Katrina, think about Puerto Rico recently...even the most advanced governments (I.e. United States) fumble through disasters of this magnitude. It takes time to gather resources and develop a plan. Of course, time is of the essence, but they can’t create even more chaos with out some sort of organization. That takes a little bit of time, and I’m sure they are moving as fast as they can. It doesn’t benefit any government’s reputation to leave its people suffering and dying.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 3 days ago

What did our government learn from Katrina? What did it learn from Matthew? What did it learn from Irma, and the many other major hurricanes I've not bothered to mention? Apparently nada. It was forecast for more than five full days before Abaco and Grand Bahama were hit by tropical storm winds that these two islands would be taking a direct hit from the eye of a much strengthened Dorian. And here our government is a full 4 days after a cataclysmic Dorian decimated Abaco deciding on and planning a relocation operation. I'm sorry but those plans taking account of worse case scenarios should have been ready long before Dorian hit and immediately rolled-out in its aftermath. Heaven knows how many stranded Bahamian souls facing the most horrendous conditions have been lost in the sweltering summer heat. Proper planning for worst case scenarios recognizes you simply don't have the luxury of time to try and learn on the fly. As for our government's concern about its reputation for leaving its people suffering and dying, just think for a moment about the number of Bahamian lives that have been lost because of our failed public healthcare system and the many power outages the the very young, very old, frail and ill have had to try endure this summer on New Providence Island. Can't help but note you avoided the illegal Haitian alien problem and the government of Haiti's apparent unwillingness to repatriate them back to Haiti, choosing instead to tell our government to relocate all 14,000+ of them to join the 30,000+ already living in growing shanty towns throughout New Providence..

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geostorm 1 week, 3 days ago

@242in404 you appear to be new to the Tribune's forum, so let me give you a little advice. You will quickly find that there are some, no matter what is reported, will always be negative, don't waste your time responding to them. As you continue to participate in the forum, you will quickly learn who they are and will just skip over their commentary.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 3 days ago

And of course there are those who attempt to suppress commentary they don't like with the generous offer of their advice.

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Topdude 1 week, 3 days ago

Sic Mudda how come you do not get off your bungee jumping and get involved in the rescue efforts? Is all you can do is to criticize the Government of the day which is doing its level best to address a situation that cannot be planned for? Are you privy to the discussions taking place between our Government leaders and their CARICOM counterparts?

Why don’t you get the doctors who were on strike to step up to the occasion and recognize that man appoints but God disappoints. Just two weeks ago they were holding the nation to Ransom, now they have to step up, work overtime, expect no extra pay, and stop the talk of more money. Our Government needs to start reducing the pay across the board of every public sector employee by 20% , while introducing a Dorian Reconstruction and Redevelopment Income Tax of 20%.

Furthermore, leave the Haitian born citizens and residents alone. Are you, Sic Mudda, native born? How about your great grandparents? I doubt it. We should not be looking for scapegoats at this time. Are we not our brothers keepers? Seems as if we don’t stop this Haitian bashing we will be encouraging violence against them. Just like what is happening in South Africa right now with Black South Africans killing Nigerians, Somalis, Zimbabweans and other brothers and sisters from Africa.

Finally, let us all extend our heartfelt sympathies to the Honorable Prime Minister on the passing of his brother. The Almighty does not put on your shoulder more than you can handle. You think Brave could handle this crisis? How about Perry?

I hope you can refrain from this negativity and take the road for once.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 3 days ago

You exhibit the very mindset that has our country where it is today compared to the much better place where it was nearly 50 years ago. And with all of your sucking up to PM Minnis and fondness for a hefty new 20% tax, I have to assume he knows who you are. And I promise I will not worry about all of that "positivity" of yours if you do not worry so much about my "negativity".

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TalRussell 1 week, 3 days ago

Bermuda is aiming to send 200 tonnes of goods to the disaster-struck Out Islanders!
Comrade Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, issued a rallying cry for “every household in Bermuda” to bring a donation cleaning supplies, building supplies and non-perishable food items are among the goods that will be accepted between this afternoon and Sunday at the Seventh-day Adventist Church Youth Centre on King Street.for the colony's Out Islands which was devastated by its largest ever hurricane this week.
The Royal Navy ice patrol ship HMS Protector — which was on the island on a “courtesy call” — will leave Front Street carrying donations on Monday morning.
Thanks go out all Comrade Bermudians and the Royal Navy for coming together for Out Islanders.
** "The donated goods will arrive in the Bahamaland by next Friday and, with the assistance of the New Providence Community Church, will be donated to needy members of the community."

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 3 days ago

These donated goods should be going to where most of the survivors are likely to be living for the foreseeable future at the time of the goods arrive in the Bahamas. Makes no sense to have a major build up of donated goods in Central & North Abaco if most of the survivors there will soon be relocated to New Providence. Hopefully all of the logistics are being carefully weighed and considered by the right people otherwise an awful lot of the donated goods will not serve the purpose intended and instead go to waste or be stolen.

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Topdude 1 week, 3 days ago

Sic Mudda what is your problem? Please help me to understand how a member of the human race, presumably with a modicum of intelligence, can be so bitter and dirty in your postings. Perhaps this is a new form of self flagellation. In other words you are a freak who derives his kicks from pulling down those who are above him on the socio-political and economic ladder of success. How long have you been suffering from this affliction? Are you married? Do you have a family? How is your mental, emotional and physical health?

Please try to take the high road.

A 20% Reconstruction and Redevelopment Tax on Income is the first step towards national reconstruction and development of our infrastructure. This tax will trigger the multiplier effect and stimulate the economy. This stimulation will boost incomes and absorb the tax increase. In case this is too complex for you, given the fact that you are a cretin, a Reconstruction and Redevelopment tax finances our Redevelopment by creating jobs, enhances the velocity of circulation of money, triggers economic growth and puts us back on the upward trajectory of a balance of payments equilibrium, sustained economic growth, increased employment and low inflation. It will be these macro economic variables which are needed and necessary to return our country to success.

When this starts to happen we will be begging Haitian citizens to come here to work. Yes, these same people you are cursing and abusing.

Finally, if you were an educated person you would shut your trap, get down to PMH and volunteer your physical labor in the effort to rebuild our nation.

I love, admire and respect Prime Minister Minnis and his Cabinet. They are honest, transparent and down to earth. God Bless them at this critical time in our nation’s history. Long live the FNM.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 3 days ago

You sound like a wannabe economist who doesn't have the slightest idea what he's talking about.

Repost: You exhibit the very mindset that has our country where it is today compared to the much better place where it was nearly 50 years ago. And with all of your sucking up to PM Minnis and fondness for a hefty new 20% tax, I have to assume he knows who you are. And I promise I will not worry about all of that "positivity" of yours if you do not worry so much about my "negativity".

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