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Public Cautioned Over Incorrect Information On Storm Victims

A body is carried out from The Mudd in Abaco on September 9. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

A body is carried out from The Mudd in Abaco on September 9. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

CABINET ministers yesterday cautioned the public over the spread of erroneous information as officials continue to “meticulously” comb affected areas for deceased victims of Hurricane Dorian.

National Security Minister Marvin Dames and Health Minister Dr Duane Sands sought yesterday to rebuff the wave of speculation regarding victims of the storm and to defend the government’s process of officially declaring the death toll, which has been criticised as slow moving.

Mr Dames maintained that due to the large areas that need to be searched, it could be weeks before the last body is recovered.

Compounded by severe flooding, he said there is the possibility that some may never be found.

“We can only count what we know and what we see,” Mr Dames said yesterday ahead of a Cabinet meeting.

“We are meticulously searching the entire island. You can imagine how large the island is and its cays and so we’re not just searching one confined area.”

He took issue with what he sees as an effort to undermine the work of recovery teams, with claims from some that the government has attempted to suppress the death toll. This came after The Punch tabloid claimed that as many as 2,300 people had died.

“I want us to be extremely careful that we are dealing with persons who would have gone through a wide range of emotions and when we put this information out there on social media and in other spheres you know it further complicates things,” Mr Dames said. 

“I have heard some person saying ‘they are hiding the bodies.’ Why would we do that? Just tell me, what will it gain us to do such a thing?

“So we have to take hold of this and always with anything we print, with anything we say. Keep in mind those who would have endured tremendous loss and that’s something that’s always at the forefront of anything I say or do.

“We want to be extremely careful here and this search is not going to take a day or two days as people would want to think.”

He also said: “So we can’t get caught up in the news out there that there are lots of bodies. Well we want to know where those bodies are so we can go start looking for them because this is going to take weeks to get through Grand Bahama, Abaco and the cays with the large number of persons.

“We now currently have many searching because the searches have to be organised. They have to be methodical. We have to go house by house, settlement by settlement, cay by cay.”

Mr Dames said so far officials have received official missing persons reports for 20 people in Grand Bahama but have no idea how many are missing in Abaco.

As for Dr Sands, he insisted the process would not be rushed and denied that mass burials had taken place.

“The country now has benefitted from the assistance of a large team of experts (and) more than 100 cadaver dogs,” Dr Sands told reporters. “Over the past three days we have collected less than 10 bodies. So if these bodies are easily retrievable they would have been retrieved.

“I would have gone on record as suggesting to the public that they should be prepared for a significant increase in the number of recovered bodies. I stand by that, this Cabinet stands by that, the prime minister stands by that.

“But it is going to be a deliberate, meticulous, careful, painstaking process that you cannot use equipment that would violate the dignity of these human remains so you can’t go with a bulldozer and just rummage through a particular area.

“Imagine if this was your loved one you would want to know that all due care and attention was taken.”

He also said: “There have been no mass burials in Abaco. As a matter of fact we have not even completed the first autopsy on individuals who have succumbed form the storm in Abaco.”

He blamed the use of social media for the spread of false information.

“Social media is a serious thing, it’s a dangerous thing. We have had to dispel rumours about cholera. We have had to dispel rumours about mandatory evacuation. We have had to dispel rumours now about mass burials.

“It seems as if there are individuals who are either bored or just downright malicious and I kinda prefer to believe the second.”

Up to press time, the official death toll from Dorian stood at 50. 

Comments

joeblow 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The governments approach does nothing to allay the fears and concerns of those who watched people swept out to sea, watched others drown or crushed by falling walls or may otherwise still have family members missing! Surely they must have something of a body count even if all those bodies have not been ID'ed. It is they who are adding to the emotional stress of families by taking the approach they have! How can you have 50 dead with hundreds of corpses?

They need to start collecting DNA samples from living relatives who still have family members missing since at this advanced state of decomposition some corpses can only be tentatively identified by DNA!

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newcitizen 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Why are you so obsessed with knowing a body count. In the end we will know how many people died, knowing now or in a month doesn't change that number.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

You're callousness towards those who have every reason to fear they may have lost love ones is not the least bit appreciated. If our government is taking its sweet time in identifying the bodies they have found, that's wrong..period! Those who have lost loved ones who are still missing deserve a fuller explanation of why the drip-drip-drip process underway is taking so long. Something is not right!

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Chucky 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Meanwhile his own defence force reporting way more than double that “ official” body count

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geostorm 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Well said Marvin Dames and Dr. Sands! If we are not careful, social media will destroy the lot of us. People really waste far too much time spreading negativity and untruths. What does the government have to gain by hiding the body count? Seriously, how many times since shortly after the storm, the government has said that they expect the official numbers of the dead to be a large one, but they are combing through methodically to ensure that things are done correctly and also with dignity.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Oh pleezzzz.....many have perished in the aftermath of Dorian waiting to be found by our government's methodical combing exercise....like our government obsessed with controlling everything and marching to its own drum beat, I suspect you have no idea what time is of the essence means in a life or death situation.

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TalRussell 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Even if cautioned, lectured, issued stern warnings under threat arrest it still will change not damn thing.The colony's comrade populaces, won't ever again trust in the word any member central government's Imperialists red cabinet, yes, no....... Please GO AWAY, the colony's inhabitants much prefer thank and place their trust in British Royal Marines ....

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The deceitful way this corrupt government of ours has been fooling with and skirting around the figures for Dorian-related fatalities is the very same deceitful way they have been fooling around with the figures for our national accounts and budgets since they took office in May 2017. Is most of the Dorian-related financial support of donors going to go the way of our VAT dollars? KP Turnquest already knows the independent certified accountants the government has hired to audit the Dorian-related financial donations will be issuing an audit report heavily qualified as to the completeness and accuracy of the donations received, and with good reason.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Remember: Our VAT dollars were intended to reduce our national debt and not slow down its rate of growth. That certainly didn't happen.

The cash donations received and pledged financial support are intended to help the destitute survivors of Dorian. Will the survivors be the beneficiaries of the amounts generously donated?

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Pricklypear 2 months, 3 weeks ago

News in USA as of yesterday is still “at least 50 died”

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Topdude 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The 20% Reconstruction and Redevelopment Tax will address the problems created by the Hurricane Dorian. The VAT tax is a separate issue and also necessary. This is the price we have to pay for living in paradise. It does not matter what the likes of Sic Mudda and Tal Russel blurb, belch and spit out of their mouths, our Government has everything under control and well coordinated. Please let us rally around the Government during this time of crisis. Surely Sic Mudda and Russell have the capacity to be patriotic. Get out of the gutter gutter rats.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

It would shock you to know how little there is left here in the Bahamas that government can tax. Even the very wealthy corrupt political elite who have greatly enriched themselves in previous years off of government borrowing and the public purse, while decimating middle-class Bahamians, have parked their wealth far away in other jurisdictions. And good luck trying to levy additional taxes on the illicit activities of the super wealthy racketeering numbers bosses like Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers.

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Bobsyeruncle 2 months, 3 weeks ago

"It would shock you to know how little there is left here in the Bahamas that government can tax."

I guess Income and Capital Gains are little then ? Try living in most developed countries if you want to know what heavily taxed is (40-50%, or even more in some countries,if you include Federal, State, County taxes, Social Security, National Insurance etc.) VAT or Sales Tax which are in effect the same thing are a way of life in most countries as well. No one likes paying taxes, but most of us realize it's a necessary evil in order to pay for schools, healthcare, libraries, infrastructure etc. Now how the government spends those taxes is a whole other ball of wax

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I guess you haven't heard that the wealthy living in developed countries who can afford expensive tax attorneys and accountants have some of the lowest effective tax rates in the world.

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Topdude 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Sic Mudda the Mickey Mouse University graduate talking foolish again. Have you ever had a basic course in Macroeconomic Planning? Sign up for one at UB and you may start to understand the economic development strategy of our Government. Deputy PM Turnquest has the way to move our Bahamaland forward. Let us rally for the 20% Reconstruction and Redevelopment Tax ASAP.

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My2centz 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Only 20 reported missing? The Dorianpeoplesearch website has hundreds. The owner of the website should take the site down if it’s no longer being updated.

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