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Editorial: Leave No Island Behind

WHEN Iram Lewis spoke in Parliament during his Budget contribution, his words would have been reassuring.

With hurricane season now upon us, the Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness said that shelters have been identified for “all islands”.

Not so, according to the National Emergency Management Agency’s own list of shelters.

If you live in some parts of The Bahamas, you may be all out of luck if you go looking for a shelter.

The first list of shelters issued on June 6 said that shelters were “actively being sought” in Central Abaco, Grand Bahama and Spanish Wells – while the update on Sunday added a new twist for those locations, plus Salina Point. “Evacuation plans should be considered,” warns the list.

Mr Lewis may not have returned our request for comment yesterday, but NEMA director Captain Stephen Russell made clear there is a problem.

“There is no shelter in Abaco, so in the event of a storm, there really needs to be an option, whether to the north or south or other area to evacuate,” he said.

Now we are under no illusions about the damage suffered during Hurricane Dorian – Abaco particularly suffered. Tribune staff witnessed first hand the devastation as the storm struck the island.

That said, Hurricane Dorian was in September and we are now in mid-June – at what point did the active search begin for shelters. Surely it was fairly obvious what buildings might be suitable as shelters, and a swift examination would have been able to determine whether they were strong enough to survive another storm. That could surely have been concluded months ago. Could a shelter have been built between the passing of Dorian and now?

Those who survived Hurricane Dorian are frustrated enough with the slow pace of reconstruction – being left with nowhere to shelter is hardly likely to make them feel less like second-class citizens.

And what do we do with evacuees if the worst comes to pass? Captain Russell estimates that would be up to 6,000 people having to be housed – and as Dorian has shown us, we do not know for how long that might be.

So don’t tell us everything is fine when it is not, Mr Lewis, and don’t tell us there are shelters for all islands when thousands of Bahamians are left out in the cold.

NEMA is apparently finalising a plan this week to be sent to the minister regarding evacuation plans. Thank goodness we haven’t needed it already, given we are several week into hurricane season already.

This is the very definition of too little, too late.

9pm makes no sense now

Businesses are back in operation. Restaurants are serving diners. People are back in offices, and back seeing families.

So why on earth is there still a 9pm curfew? We quite understand that the government put it in place during the lockdown period to stop the spread of the virus, but the number of cases has dropped to a trickle – the last confirmed case was a patient with a history of travel.

But now that we are out and about, should the emphasis not be on doing so safely rather than having to scurry home before 9pm?

We’re not entirely sure of the reasoning. Is it because it helps to clamp down on crime – in which case it’s not being used for the emergency it was introduced for? Is it the same reasoning that saw liquor stores kept closed, making people feel the government was telling them that nanny knows best.

Some of us need to do better too – such as the people out on Arawak Cay without masks and saying no one looked sick. Well, that’s the point of masks. If you’re sick, stay home, but you can carry the virus without looking sick so put your mask on for the sake of others.

But it seems that the time for this curfew has gone now. Certainly, we can’t imagine tourists arriving in a couple of weeks and being told that they have to be back in their hotels by 9pm.

If people can be in an office space through the day, we suspect they can be in an open air seating area without having to scurry home like Cinderella. Time to lift this curfew.

Comments

Porcupine 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Agreed. Both points, on hurricane shelters and curfew, show that those in charge have a ways to go on leadership qualities.

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sheeprunner12 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The chickens are coming home to roost in this arena ......... The NEMA vs DRRC debacle is a LOSE-LOSE scenario with a three headed monster of Iram/Smith/Russell tug-of-war to play out if a (God forbid) Cat4 or Cat5 hurricane was to hit this country this year ...... Maybe another Competent Authority plan will mask the embarrassing spat between the "entities".

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