BY DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
WITH a tropical depression system approaching the northern Bahamas this weekend, East End residents are preparing for the severe tropical conditions that are expected to hit Grand Bahama tomorrow.
The system will bring heavy rain and high winds in the morning and could strengthen and cause severe flooding in low-lying areas.
Many residents in East Grand Bahama, including Sweeting’s Cay, had sustained severe damage to their homes – some destroyed completely - during Hurricane Dorian. Most are still in the process of reconstruction and rebuilding.
East End resident Deon Feaster said some residents are not prepared for even a mild system, let alone a tropical depression or storm.
“Most are not able to deal with that because some people are still sheltering in tents,” he said.
Mr Feaster - who has temporarily relocated to Freeport since the storm - is still in the process of rebuilding his home.
He travels back and forth to East End to work on the house and noted that some residents are still in tents on their property in East End and Sweeting’s Cay.
“From the little bad weather that we get on and off, the tents are tore up and uprooted; they are not safe to be in when there is a storm, heavy rain, and thunder,” he said.
Many houses were destroyed and swept off their foundations as a result of the 20ft tidal surge by hurricane Dorian, and structures that there were were severely damaged and are still not fully completed.
“With this tropical depression, most of the residents are not prepared for that,” Mr Feaster said.
While some persons were able to make repairs and can stay in their homes, he said others who have families in Freeport will have to stay with them until the weather system passes.
In Sweeting’s Cay, Chief Councillor Gladstone Russell said that the over 30 residents there on the cay are aware of the approaching weather system.
“My house sustained severe roof damage and the repairs are still not completed yet,” he said.
“We are watching the storm,” he said. “We have a few, one or two people living down here in tents, but there are one or two homes down here where we could shelter in. If it comes to that, we will try to get and shelter with one another until the weather passes.”
Mr Russell indicated that some of Sweeting’s Cay residents also have relatives in Freeport they can stay with if they want to.
In terms of reconstruction on the cay, the chief councilor indicated that there has not been much progress with cleanup and rebuilding. “The reconstruction is going terrible; there is no reconstruction. All we get is a bunch of promises,” he said.
“Our main focus is we need to get the community cleaned up so people could start adjusting to some sort of a normal life. If you start to clean up people will feel more at home, but as it stands now, the community is in a mess,” he stated.
“I would really like to see how quick we could get this cay cleanup so people could get their life back together,” he said.
Donovan Bowe, chief councillor East Grand Bahama, said that residents are making necessary preparations.
“They are securing property as best they can for the pending inclement weather,” he said. He noted that some residents have well secured roofs and are able to weather the rainy weekend.
However, he noted that people are still very fearful and traumatized after Dorian. “The mood is somber as the impending weather is reminiscent of the deadly storm we just suffered,” Mr Bowe said. Everyone is prayerful that all will be well.
Mr Bowe said resident are just praying the weather will pass without any significant impact, so they can return to reconstruction.
Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest, MP for East Grand Bahama, said he is praying that East Grand Bahama will be spared any significant weather from the system.“I do recognize that there are persons still very vulnerable to weather intrusion due to leaky or exposed roofs and entry points,” he said.
Mr Turnquest stated that Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) continues to process applications for relief.
“We remain hopeful that the process will shortly be completed such that all persons in need of assistance can receive relief. I wish to encourage residents to take shelter during this time and take necessary precautions to protect themselves and their possessions,” he said.
Tammi Mitchell of NEMA, said NEMA is on standby to assist wherever possible and is advising residents who are in tents to seek shelter with family.
“We know that there are persons in tents and that they will not hold up to such a system, and we encourage them not to stay in the tents and to try stay with family. We continue to monitor all residents in East GB, and have been in contact with chief councillor in Sweeting Cay, where there are still 33 people, and all areas in the East that have been impacted by Dorian”.