By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis defended the government’s response to Hurricane Dorian during a national address last night, insisting officials reacted as quickly as possible to the Category 5 storm.
He announced that Jack Thompson and Algernon Cargill have been appointed hurricane relief and redevelopment coordinators in Abaco while Senate President Kay Forbes Smith has been appointed coordinator for Grand Bahama.
He said a national day of mourning is being planned and has ordered that flags be flown at half-mast on public buildings.
The government’s response to the storm has been criticised by some Bahamians and scrutinised by the international press. Some said it took too long to mobilise first responders. Several Abaco residents said insufficient law enforcement officers led to looting while some relief providers have complained about red tape and disorganisation.
Traumatised storm victims, waiting hours and sometimes days to leave storm ravaged areas, criticised the post-storm evacuation process.
Last night, Dr Minnis said his administration is shredding the red tape that has frustrated members of the public who want to help.
Dr Minnis said: “Right after the all-clear was given by the Met Department, we began mobilising our search, rescue and recovery efforts. We deployed security, food, water and other resources as quickly as was possible once the all-clear was given so that first respondents were not put at risk.
“Our search, rescue, and recovery efforts are one response with many parts. As soon as was possible, after the impact of the hurricane, the government deployed Bahamian rescue and security personnel, from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
“At the invitation of the government of the Bahamas, we asked the US Coast Guard to immediately go into action, using their helicopters and other resources,” Dr Minnis said.
In private, officials have noted the country lacks valuable resources like helicopters for such disasters.
The prime minister said the government is working to set up and secure temporary housing and shelters on the affected islands for people who lost homes.
He praised the United States, saying President Donald Trump has authorised the full support of the US government for this country and noted that disaster management experts from the US are in the country to provide their expertise.
“One of our closest allies and neighbour, is the United States of America,” he said.
“The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has proven to be a true friend to the Bahamas, during this dark hour.”
He also said: “Because of their specialty equipment and resources, the US Coast Guard has been leading air rescuers and transport within the disaster zone. USAID is providing significant relief supplies. Members of the FBI are here too along with other US rescue, aid and security officials.”
He also thanked the United Kingdom, which has sent its Royal Navy; CARICOM, which has sent security forces and aid officials; the Canadian government and the Royal Dutch Navy.
He called on residents to help.
“Instead of criticising those who are trying their best, day after day, in government, charities, churches and volunteers’ efforts, let us all join hands and hearts to focus on the needs of those who are suffering,” he said. “Those whose lives are devastated need hope, love and generosity, not needless negativity.
“How can you help? Volunteer at a reputable charity. Make a donation. Take in those in need.”
Describing the destruction Dorian wrought, Dr Minnis said much of Abaco “no longer exists” while East Grand Bahama “has been laid to waste.”
“No living Bahamian has ever seen anything like this in their lifetime,” he said. “But as horrible and vicious as Hurricane Dorian was, the bravery and resilience of the Bahamian people is even more powerful.”
Dr Minnis also said incidents of looting and lawlessness post-hurricane will not be tolerated, adding law enforcement officials have secured Abaco.
A private accounting firm will have oversight of storm relief donations to the government and will report on how the money is being spent, Dr Minnis said.