BY DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
Grand Bahama residents in 20 communities along the coast and other vulnerable areas are being advised to evacuate, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management, and Reconstruction Iram Lewis said on Friday.
This comes as the island - still recovering a devastating blow from Category Five Dorian last year – is forecast to experience three to five feet storm surge as the system brushes the island on Saturday.
Given the potential surge, according to Minister Lewis, NEMA is advising the evacuation of communities along coastline, including McLean's Town, Sweeting's Cay, High rock, Dover Sound, Barbary Coast, Lucayan Glen, Forest Green, the Harbour area, Airport Zone, East Airport Zone, Queen's Cove, Lucayan Estates, the Heavy Industrial Area, and coastal areas of Williams Town, Russell Town, Pinder's Point, Bay Shore Road Eight Mile Rock; those on Rolle's Avenue and Quacko Street in Holmes Rock; Deadman's Reef, Bootle Bay, and the entire community of West End.
Also, the official shelter count has been increased from four to eight on Grand Bahama. They are Bishop Michael Eldon High School; Foster B Pestaina Hall (Special Needs); Calvary Temple, Maurice Moore Primary School (East Grand Bahama residents); Calvary Temple; St Georges High School Gym; Eight Mile Rock School; Central Zion Baptist Church; and Bethel Baptist Church.
The Emergency Operation Center has been activated, and Mr Lewis stated that persons in quarantine wishing to evacuate before the storm were able to call the EOC at 351-4902/3 to arrange transportation.
According to the minister, persons in quarantine not allowed to leave their homes were advised to have family members or persons in the public assist them with preparations for the storm.
"We have to abide by COVID-19 regulations, we have to be strict with that and ensure that those persons remain on lockdown,” he stressed.
Rand Memorial Hospital Administrator Sharon Williams assured that the hospital is ready and prepared for the storm.
She said the emergency room is only open for emergencies and added that hospital patients are being accommodated at the A&E Section and Sunrise Medical Center. Ms Williams noted that the COVID-19 section at the Cancer Association Building is activated and is used to house COVID-19 patients and suspected cases.
Samaritan’s Purse tent hospital has been deactivated and is no longer being used to accommodate hospital patients, since April when it was impacted by severe weather.
When asked about visitors on Grand Bahama, Minister of State for Grand Bahama Senator Kwasi Thompson said that the Ministry of Tourism is aware of all visitors on the island.
He said visitors wishing to leave the island can do so by private charter. “As long as they have private charter they are allowed to leave, there are no restrictions on non-Bahamians who wish to leave,” he added.
Minister Thompson also indicated that the OPM after receiving requests has considered on a case by case basis where hotels are required to open to receive evacuees during the storm.
He stressed that the island is being challenged again.
“This is a very challenging time for GB and the entire Bahamas. It is challenging because we are continuing to recover from Dorian, and we see signs of that all over, said Mr Thompson.
“We have done tremendous work and people have done tremendous work; and businesses have done tremendous work in recovering from what was the most devastating storm to ever hit this island. We are fighting with COVID-19; and not only are we fighting with COVID-19, but we are also at the center of the fight for COVID in the Bahamas. And now, we are faced with another storm, another hurricane,” he said.
“I believe we are as best as we can be prepared, given the circumstances we find ourselves in which are not at all ordinary circumstances,” the minister said.
In preparation for the storm, residents flooded gas stations, the food stores, and hardware stores which were open until 8pm on Friday.
Grand Bahama Police will be closely monitoring the conditions at Fishing Hole Road.
Supt Doyle Burrows said the Police Command Center has been activated, but warned that no rescues will be carried during the storm. The numbers are 350-3084 or 350-3082.