By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE chaos that gripped Marsh Harbour in the wake of Hurricane Dorian has subsided, and for those who remain, a new fight for survival begins.
For some, remaining on the island is a testament of their heritage and resilience, but for others it’s just a balance of odds for survival.
In Marsh Harbour, work crews continue to clear the roads while officers from various agencies conduct search and recovery missions.
According to Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson last night, the official death toll stands at 50: 42 victims from Abaco and eight from Grand Bahama.
Five bodies were recovered from Abaco yesterday as crews were in The Mudd shanty town, according to reports.
At her home opposite the Pigeon Peas, an adjacent shanty town, Patricia Kemp, 54, said she has seen crews recover at least 17 bodies.
Most of them were from an unfinished church where shanty town residents fled as surge waters burst through their homes.
“People were in (the church) for safety because it’s on a high hill, the roof and everything came off of it and it collapsed on top of them. They found over 17 bodies and they keep finding more during the week,” she claimed. “I see them taking them out.”
Ms Kemp insisted she and her husband would stay and rebuild their home, despite the destruction.
“People going because they ain’t got nowhere to stay. I lived here all my life,” Ms Kemp said.
“It’s my place, I have food and water from preparing for the storm. I’m going to stay. I’m going to rebuild.”
Ms Kemp spent the hurricane in her roof along with her husband and four dogs. She lost her 78-year-old father, Ralph Kemp, who attempted to go outside during the storm.
“He tried to come out (during the storm), he tried to come out and do little things. “The water came up in the roof and get ready to come into the ceiling, but it stopped. We were in the ceiling and still sitting in water in the ceiling. If it raised little higher we would have died in the ceiling, because we had no way to get out.”
Andrew Bowe, 50, of Big Cat Heavy Equipment, weathered the storm and told The Tribune he had no plans to move to the capital, not even for a break from the devastation.
“I’m not going nowhere,” Mr Bowe said. “I have to get this stuff together. We’ve been clearing the road from after the hurricane. Making sure roads were drivable (sic), rescuing couple people."
Mr Bowe had several workers with him, all of whom told The Tribune they would stay on the island as long as there was paid work.
But despite the severity of the devastation, Haitian Eignace Joseph, 39, said yesterday “Abaco is very dry”.
Mr Joseph made the decision to stay behind in Abaco to search for post-storm work to provide for his seven children – six of whom were evacuated.
The US team coming out of The Mudd
He was sceptical of how the government would handle the exodus of longtime residents of the Mudd and Pigeon Peas shanty towns, and the availability of jobs given that more than 3,000 people have already been evacuated to the capital from the devastated islands.
“We are not ready to move yet,” Mr Joseph said, referring to his friend and one of his sons who stayed behind.
“What happen is we think Nassau very difficult for us to go on. I got seven kids to take care of so I don’t know exactly what part I would go in or if government decide to do something with us. So that’s why we not move yet.
“We still here to watch before we move. I send altogether six to Nassau but they told me they don’t live too good, they don’t eat good.
“All the money I have is gone, my passport gone, so I can’t travel to the US, and my kids are school kids.”
Mr Joseph continued: “I’m worried about school for my kids, I’m worried for my food, how can I take care of them.
“If (government) decide to deport me whatever, I can’t do nothing, if I find some job to do in Nassau much better, but my family they don’t know Haiti, they’re all born here, so if they want to deport me no problem, but I’m worried about my family. Everything I have in Mudd is gone.”
Mr Joseph’s children are aged 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4-years-old.
They escaped the Mudd during the storm as rising waters and gale force winds lashed the shanty town. First, they ran to a nearby church, International Mission Gospel, just a few steps over from the church that collapsed on the hilltop. But parts of it began to crumble, forcing them to the government complex. During this time, his four-year-old was injured by debris that hit his foot.
Mr Joseph and his family spent two days there before they were kicked out by an angry official.
He said: “We were kicked out of complex - Wednesday - she say everybody out because we nasty, we steal something inside, so I take all my kids to move back here (to the church). I sent (my children) to the mailboat.”
Yesterday, Mr Joseph said while he did not like the insensitive treatment he endured in the aftermath of the storm, he could not call Bahamians hateful people.
He underscored positive experiences with two former employers over the last 23 years.
“I don’t go political,” Mr Joseph said, “too much people hurt me, but what some people doing I don’t like, but that make me scared if government decide to keep me in Nassau, I think if they could push me the same way they was doing at the complex, push me out, take my bag and push out.
“I don’t like that happen to me,” he added.
The Tribune travelled to Abaco with the Progressive Liberal Party’s Disaster Relief Committee, which travelled from hard-hit Marsh Harbour, through to Spring City and Sandy Point. In Sandy Point, the contrast is staggering.
While some people in the fishing village have had major damage from tornadoes, the settlement was mostly spared Dorian’s wrath.
There, Bahamians like 72-year-old Robert McKinney say they will stay on the island to the end.
“Everything I own is right here,” said 54-year-old Calvin Edgecombe, “I can’t leave. We will be in pretty good shape once we get the power going.”