By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
HURRICANE Dorian survivors stuck in the US amid the COVID-19 pandemic say they feel abandoned by the government after receiving no response from embassy or government officials on when they will be allowed to return home.
This comes after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis on Sunday suspended the repatriation exercises after revealing a Grand Bahama passenger who flew in had tested positive for the virus.
After being stuck in Florida for several weeks, one storm victim, who only wanted to be identified as Ms Lanes, told The Tribune yesterday she is anxious to return to her home in Abaco.
She said she is among some 50 Abaco residents who have been reaching out to various officials to receive assistance on the matter, but to no avail.
The situation, she said, has left them frustrated and in desperate need of answers on when repatriation flights will resume to the country.
“I have reached out to the Consulate and haven’t gotten a response. No one answers the phone so as of this moment no assistance has been afforded to me,” she said. “It’s approximately 50 plus (of us) that are here. (We keep in contact) on mostly Facebook and WhatsApp.
“James Albury (Central and South Abaco MP) requested us to email him for him to assist us, but no one has received a response. He posted a letter on Facebook requesting us to email him and call the closest Consulate and we’ve done that - but nothing, haven’t received any response.”
Ms Lanes said she has been travelling “back and forth” between Abaco and Florida since the deadly storm ripped her home apart in early September. However, she said a quick trip to see her kids in March resulted in her being stuck in the US.
She said: “My kids and I are here but some extended family/friends are all over the Palm Beach County area. We are on a stay-at-home order here in Florida (and) only go out for necessities.
“I came right after the storm and I’ve been back and forth trying to clean up the damage from our destroyed home. My kids stayed with family in the US since September, I came back in March for a visit and got stuck here when they shut the borders.”
As for the other remaining victims, Ms Lanes said some residents found themselves stuck in the country after seeking medical attention.
Others, she suggested, were storm victims who left the island in the immediate aftermath of Dorian and have yet to return.
“I think it’s a mix, some like myself, have been back and forth when they can to stay and clean up and or do repairs because most people don’t have anywhere to stay except with friends or family while they do repairs as they can,” she said.
“I know there are some that came for medical purposes and got stuck as well.”
The government closed the country’s borders in late March in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.
However, after facing controversy for allowing six permanent American residents into the country during the lockdown who brought COVID-19 test supplies but were not tested before entry, the government repatriated nearly 200 Bahamians stuck abroad amid the pandemic.
On Sunday, Dr Minnis said a person who tested positive for COVID-19 was among the 183 residents who returned to the country on Friday, prompting a suspension of repatriation exercises.
The passenger has since tested negative for COVID-19, the Ministry of Health reported on Tuesday night.
However, it is not clear when repatriation flights will resume, with Bahamas Consul General Linda Treco-Mackey telling The Tribune yesterday officials are still awaiting an update from Dr Minnis on the matter.
For the Dorian survivors, this issue is also compounded with not knowing where they will be allowed to quarantine upon return.
“We don’t want to go to Nassau or Grand Bahama to quarantine, we want to go directly to Abaco,” Ms Lanes told The Tribune. “It seems Nassau and Grand Bahama have been helped but Abaconians have been left in the cold once again.”