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Editorial: We Must Be United In Response

IT was perhaps inevitable that after the initial rush of support in the wake of the immediate impact of Hurricane Dorian that dissenting voices would start to be raised.

NEMA isn’t doing enough, some say, it’s too disorganised, it’s chaotic.

It would be a remarkable thing indeed if, in the face of a category five storm, everything was able to be resolved smoothly and quickly.

This country is facing a challenge like never before - and meeting it exposes our weaknesses, even as it showcases our strengths as we unite to try to reach those in need of aid.

Sometimes, too, what people see as a slow reaction is the rescue effort taking its time to make sure it doesn’t cause more harm. Some were calling for bulldozers to clear the roads, for example, while Minister of National Security Marvin Dames pointed out that you can’t do that until you’ve established the debris is clear of bodies, or indeed of survivors.

There is criticism too of limitations being placed on airspace in the area. Why slow the rescue effort down by stopping planes getting in there? Well, as our story on page three reveals, you might cause more problems with crowded airspace. The prime minister’s own plane, with dignitaries from a number of nations on board, had a near miss while trying to inspect the damage.

Other voices have called out for Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to go, for NEMA to be scrapped, and more, even as moves are made to bring in support for the relief operation from the likes of the United States Agency for International Development’s Disaster Assistance Response Team, which is already on the ground to lead the US government’s humanitarian response. There is also support too from the United Kingdom - with the RFA Mounts Bay having already been delivering relief in Abaco, and the HMS Protector setting sail from Bermuda today loaded up with donations and relief supplies.

We would also note the political maturity that has seen the PLP seek to assist, not to tear down, and seen Opposition leader Philip ‘Brave’ Davis stand alongside the prime minister as the country seeks the best path toward recovery.

Can things be done better? Yes, they can. Some of those in leadership have seen those weaknesses too and are trying to remedy them.

We all share the frustration of not getting to our loved ones, our relatives, our friends as quickly as we would like. We might sometimes forget that those officers and leaders co-ordinating the relief effort also have family and friends in need of assistance in the affected islands.

Those on the ground trying desperately to get through the debris to reach people they have known all their lives will be the first to say if they think things aren’t going quickly enough - and how to do it better.

Suggestions from others with good ideas ought to be welcomed too - but put those suggestions to those who can implement them, don’t just throw them out into social media and hope they find their way to the right ears.

Beyond that, the biggest thing you can do is reach out and help. There are a host of civic organisations who can use your assistance, whether it is financial, donations of goods or other useful items, or just offering your hands and your labour to pack boxes full of relief supplies.

Those civic organisations have mobilised an incredible response. These are the people we should be celebrating next month for National Heroes Day. Each and every person who has shown up and put in the effort for their fellow Bahamians deserves to be saluted, for the work they have done so far, and the work they will continue to do as we seek to recover from this disaster.

You can join them. Find a group. Offer to help. Find a way to play your part.

We do not seek to underplay the momentous scale of the challenge we face now and in the future - but the hurdles we face we must overcome, and our best chance of doing that is working together.

We must unite, Bahamas. For if we are united, we can meet this challenge. For all those affected, we owe them nothing less.

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