By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
SIGNIFICANT support and assistance to rebuild the communities devastated in the east Grand Bahama district are needed, according to Administrator Gaye Antoine-Bowe, who reported that the damage to homes and property is very widespread.
On Grand Bahama, East End was hardest hit by Hurricane Dorian. The Category 5 storm whipped 180 mph to 200 mph winds and powerful 25-ft storm surge that swept through all the settlements, including Sweeting’s Cay, and on the mainland from McClean’s Town to Gold Rock Creek.
In addition to the massive property damage, Ms Bowe reported that 17 to 20 persons are still missing in the entire district – most from the High Rock area, where an entire family was swept by the flood.
In McClean’s Town, a bonefisherman and his children, also reportedly died when surge water came in and flooded their home. The wife – who is the only one that survived – is in hospital.
Ms Bowe said on Tuesday: “The last time I heard a report on missing persons it is somewhat between 17 and 20 persons unaccounted for in that area. Everybody on Sweeting’s Cay – all 33 that remained during the storm – are alive. However, from McClean’s Town to Gold Rock Creek, we had at least 17-20 unaccounted for, most of them in the High Rock area.”
She reported that all residents in east Grand Bahama received damage to their homes. She noted that some structures were totally destroyed, and those not totally destroyed sustained about 80 percent damage.
“They (all) will have to start all over. So, support is really needed from private partners, the government and from outside to help them rebuild. If they don’t, it would be like a ghost-town,” she said.
Road access has been restored into east Grand Bahama, and many of the residents commute between Freeport and the various settlements to asses and clean up what is left of their property, and return to Freeport in the evening, where they stay with relatives or at a designated shelter.
About 95 residents from east Grand Bahama are staying in shelter at St George’s High School gymnasium.
Overall, there are probably about 100 people that still remain in East End, said Ms Bowe.
“We are trying to see if we can…open up feeding and washing stations where the residents go to a central location to have access to a kitchen and washing facilities, and cots set up for those who want to stay and sleep in East GB,” said the administrator.
Debris is also a major issue in the area, she reported. “Most residences were reduced to rubble and the pine forest was destroyed, and now we have so much debris from the forest too,” she explained.
The front road in High Rock, some 500 ft along the coastline – has been destroyed. “We had to open another road for residents east of where the damage happened so that they could access their homes and also get down to Freeport,” she said.
She also noted that work has been done to the gap in the road on GB Highway near the Lucayan National Highway, and that motorists can now travel on it.
Ms Bowe said government buildings were also damaged.
“I am feeling the people’s pain right now. Every building in the district received damage. Emotionally, it is hard because many people lost homes that they have built with money out of their pockets, and some of the homes were not insured,” Mrs Bowe said.
She said another serious problem that needs to be addressed immediately is the situation at Stat Oil, where oil spilled from a storage facility during the hurricane.
“We had an environmental hazard caused as a result of Dorian when the lids of the storage tanks (at Equinox) blew off and oil was dispersed in the area. That is a major problem for us, right now.
“They have started the initial assessment, and I understand that they will start clean-up soon, but not soon enough. It needs to be done right away because it poses a risk to motorists in the area. We had a lot of rain and the road could be dangerous for driving,” she said.
Officials from the facility have said clean up has begun.