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'There Is Only So Much We Can Do'

By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT

tsmith-cartwright@tribunemedia.net

NO hurricane shelters have been identified for some of the Abaco cays – and yesterday the government admitted the nation has no properly built shelters to withstand another Hurricane Dorian.

Carl Smith, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, made the admissions at a press conference yesterday, held by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) ahead of the possibility of a tropical storm which might make landfall on the south eastern islands by the weekend.

The Tribune asked Mr Smith about a report made by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) after assessing the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco a few months ago. The report said the islands were not fit to withstand another hurricane and it also mentioned that shelters in The Bahamas were just churches, gymnasiums and school rooms and not properly structured shelters built to a certain code to withstand serious winds and weather conditions.

Mr Smith said the IOM report is not telling Bahamians anything they don’t already know and subsequently went on to speak about immigration matters in The Bahamas.

“The International Organization for Migration simply reminded us of what we already know,” he said. “In The Bahamas, we do not have any purposely built facilities that serve as shelters. And we are not unique in that either. In the great US of A, they don’t have many such facilities.

“The International Organization for Migration’s focus is on providing housing for migrants. So when they make their report and speak to the lack of accommodations to house persons in The Bahamas, protect them from storms, they have built into their consideration the countless number of migrants in The Bahamas. Part of our preparation needs to be that if you are in The Bahamas illegally, you should make every effort to go home. We are a very humane society. We provide water and food and shelter, but there is only so much that we can do. That is the reality. We need not try to escape that reality.”

When pressed with regard to the structure of hurricane shelters and their ability to withstand hurricanes, Mr Smith continued: “We have a situation in The Bahamas where we have a number of migrants who live in conditions that cannot withstand systems such as hurricanes. We saw that with Hurricane Dorian and the consequential disaster that followed. We have to come to the place and realise that that is a situation that has to be addressed.”

Mr Smith said Bahamians have to face the reality of the migrant situation and something has to happen. He said: “Just as we’ve had an illegal migrant population in the heart of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, which resulted in quite a number of lives being lost, we have such communities here in New Providence, in Eleuthera, in Andros and many of our own people are facilitating them being here under those conditions.”

Focusing on shelters again, Mr Smith gave an overview of new shelter structures that are being planned. He said: “Having said that, we are moving towards the construction of community centres that will be specifically designed to serve as shelters,” he said. “We have had, for example, contributions from the government of India to the tune of $1m. There are contributions from Rotary International towards the construction of purposely built facilities that will serve as shelters and community centres. In addition to that, we have Bahamas Red Cross and International Red Cross that are moving in that direction as well.”

He said The Bahamas does its best to accommodate all people who are here, but “we are realistic people and there is only so much we can do and only so far that our resources can go”.

Comments

Clamshell 1 year, 1 month ago

They should rename this agency the “Ministry of Disastrous Mismanagement.”

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Porcupine 1 year, 1 month ago

We have no leadership. Less vision And even less honesty. Mr. Smith may be good at something. He should find a job doing that thing. The Bahamas deserves better than the wholly inept leadership now at the helm.

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lovingbahamas 1 year, 1 month ago

One has to really wonder what happened to the tens of million if not hundreds of millions given to the government after Dorian?? Water just on now in parts of Abaco, still no electricity in some parts of Abaco. The fact is the the NEMA is a waste. There was no emergency response after Dorian. If not for the NGO there wouldn’t even be drinking water in parts. No police protection. Can there possibly be someone who could actually take charge? It is an amazing way to be totally befuddled and act like you are actually running a government. We need to be grooming a new government-pronto!

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tribanon 1 year, 1 month ago

Literally millions of dollars of cash and in-kind goods donated by many donors for which we never received a proper accounting for from the Minnis led FNM government. One can only wonder why there was no proper accounting by government.

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Hoda 1 year, 1 month ago

Okay, I believe you. Do you have or know the names any of these donors and the figure they donated? Seems strange someone would donate tens of hundreds of thousands millions of dollars and didnt share this information. I saw specific stories of people donating Money and the figures they gave to the Red Cross, NGOs, Head Rigby etc.. Just curious.

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tribanon 1 year, 1 month ago

Most if not all of the major donations were given press coverage by The Tribune and/or Nassau Guardian in the 3 months immediately following Hurricane Dorian. Feel free to wade through the archives of these two newspapers to get the information you want. I'm too busy preparing for this next hurricane about to arrive.

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Hoda 1 year, 1 month ago

Counted them up havent reached hundred of millions in cash, lots of services in kind. Good luck in the storm.

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