By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
MORE than 3,000 people have been evacuated to New Providence in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
According to National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Carl Smith yesterday, 3,500 people have come to the capital from Abaco and Grand Bahama, but only 860 persons have needed to be housed in approved shelters. There have been a number of other evacuations carried out by civil society.
Officials have also worked on short and long-term plans to accommodate evacuees.
John Michel Clarke, chairman of the Disaster Relief and Reconstruction Committee, said a temporary relief facility with a capacity to hold 4,000 is also in the works.
As it stands, 422 people are being housed in the Kendal Isaacs Gym; 202 at the Fox Hill community shelter; 91 at Calvary Baptist shelter; 50 in the Salvation Army and 95 at Pilgrim Baptist Temple on St James Road. Another shelter was opened yesterday morning in Adelaide. However, the number of people there was not provided yesterday.
Mr Smith said yesterday there was no mandatory evacuation for Abaco.
He further warned that the Department of Civil Aviation would revoke authorisation of any air carrier charging passengers for evacuation flights. Last week, Bahamasair had charged a $75 one-way fee to evacuate Abaco. Officials have since discontinued this fee, adding anyone who paid it should be refunded.
“The plan moving forward, we discussed immediately we want to create a temporary relief facility in Abaco in two locations and the thought behind the temporary relief facility is that it is built to accommodate between 4,000 persons,” Mr Clarke said during a NEMA press conference yesterday.
“The way that that facility will be designed will be for temporary relief in the short-term.
“As a staging area, in the mid-term for the reconstruction effort and as for a permanent development in the long-term so that we’re not bothered about spending money twice.
“So what we want to do is we want to make sure that we get the planning for that effort absolutely correct.”
Mr Smith also announced how officials planned to commence clean up efforts in Abaco.
“NEMA and its partners have not commenced any large scale debris cleaning in Abaco. Search and recovery is still being conducted particularly in Marsh Harbour. We are aware of rumours about bulldozing in The Mudd. These are false reports.
“NEMA has directed a 50-member team from the Unites States Agency for International Development and the Office of Foreign US Disaster Assistance to work with the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to do a systematic sweep of the island.
“The island has been put into a system and the recovery team will check each section for persons who are still alive, any bodies that need to be recovered, and to check for hazardous material.
“Only after each section is cleared will NEMA and its partners move to the next phase of operations, which includes debris removal and I want to indicate here that where diseased bodies are discovered they have been handled in a most respectful manner properly and professionally handled.”
Officials said yesterday that the official death toll remains at 43.
However, a statement by the Royal Bahamas Police Force later said that 45 bodies have been located - 37 in Abaco and eight in Grand Bahama.
“We anticipate the discovery of more bodies as the process of search and recovery progresses,” the RBPF said.
The statement added: “There are many more persons presumed missing and we are appealing to the public to file Missing Persons reports, with the police, of those persons who have not been seen since the passage of Hurricane Dorian.
“We offer condolences to those families who have had loved ones die during the storm. And every effort is being made along with our local and international law enforcement partners to bring closure.”
Health officials have also urged residents of Abaco, Grand Bahama and surrounding cays not to drink or consume ground water due to the potential of contamination. Residents are asked to use clean bottled water for drinking, food preparation or hygiene purposes.
• Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis is reportedly to address the nation tonight.