By FARRAH JOHNSON
NATIONAL Emergency Management Agency Director Captain Stephen Russell yesterday said officials are in the process of finalising a plan that would allow them to bury storm victims who are currently being held in a refrigerated trailer.
Captain Russell made the statement while giving an update on the conditions in Abaco and Grand Bahama after Hurricane Dorian, in a presentation at the Rotary Club of West Nassau. "In addition to the repair programme, some 40 remains still remain in the trailer. Again we had a meeting with health officials just two days ago and some of the family members out of Abaco and Grand Bahama and we're trying to finalise a programme now to bury those persons with some dignity," he said.
"Again, the challenge has been identifying persons (because) even though we're talking about DNA analysis, again we learn that that can take up to six to nine months."
Captain Russell said the plan was to find a property and place each body in a "properly marked grave," so that when persons come forward they can "remove their loved ones from the proposed site and take them elsewhere," if they choose to do so.
"That is well on the way and so we had a meeting on Monday past and that is a plan of action moving forward shortly to give them some decency and closure to a certain extent," he explained.
Captain Russell also spoke about the programme the Disaster Reconstruction Authority has launched to assist storm victims with rebuilding. "Again, the government has advised even after Hurricane Irma in 2017, (that) the government is not in the habit of rebuilding homes. They have posed plans to give out grants (and) this case homes have been placed into four categories: minor damage; moderately damaged; severely damaged or destroyed.
"…So that is going very well and the (Disaster Reconstruction) Authority wants to get the application forms, follow up assessments will be conducted and the idea is to find out exactly what your home requires."
Captain Russell added that in the midst of their current recovery programme, plans are also "underway" for the 2020 hurricane season.
He said over the next few months, the authority will be focused on "providing further relief and repair assistance to storm victims, further identifying the deceased and assisting with their burials, and reevaluating the current shelter programme."
"We have always relied on churches and schools to serve as our shelters throughout the Bahamas and over the course of last year we probably had as much as 140 such structures that served as shelters. But over the years many of them have been bombarded by these intensive storms so we now have to revise our sheltering programme. It now calls for building purposeful shelters in strategic locations throughout the Bahamas that can serve as shelters."
Captain Russell also said that evacuation protocol is a "must moving forward" to ensure that all of the country's "sectors, ministries and departments have a continuity of business plan," that would allow each establishment to have a core team on hand to carry out their operations in the "immediate aftermath of a storm."
"Again one key thing this year we're going to have a major national simulation exercise to be conducted in April of this year where we hope to get all ministries and departments involved in such an exercise so that we make sure that all sectors of the Bahamas are better prepared to respond to disasters moving forward."