By EARYEL BOWLEG
CENTRAL and South Abaco MP James Albury indicated shelters on Abaco have already been activated in anticipation of bad weather from a passing tropical depression on the weekend.
This comes as June 1, the start of a hurricane season, approaches and amid criticism Abaco and Grand Bahama are not prepared.
Mr Albury told The Tribune he has been working with Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis, the Disaster Reconstruction Authority, the island administrator, local community members and other agencies that fall under the ministry.
The MP explained how tricky the situation on the island is for preparedness dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian compounded by COVID-19.
He added: “You know the situation is of course very difficult because in Abaco you have obviously Hurricane Dorian destroyed the vast majority of our infrastructure now you have of course we’re dealing with COVID-19. So have that double blow which makes things that much more difficult.
“You know what we learned in Hurricane Dorian what does work and what doesn’t work as well as being guided by you know facing the reality of the health pandemic. You know, how we’re going to move forward on that. So both of those factors are going to guide those decisions as we move forward.”
An International Organisation for Migration report assessing Abaco and Grand Bahama’s hurricane preparedness noted there is very limited emergency shelter capacity available on both islands. The lack of adequate shelters was an issue one Dundas Town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, raised yesterday.
“There is no hurricane preparedness,” she said, adding she did not think there were enough shelters to house displaced residents now living in tents.
“Majority of homes have yet to begin repairs. Some have started their repairs but not completely.”
Abaco resident Vandea Stuart agrees the island is not ready for a major storm.
“We still have people living in tents that are placed inside of their homes that have been damaged,” Ms Stuart said.
“A lot of people living in trailers — I don’t think that these trailers would be able to sustain a category 5 stormn— this is even more dangerous. We are definitely not ready for another storm. The best advice for the government is to prepare to build a suitable hurricane shelter away from the water – something that is strong and sturdy — and/or have a backup plan to evacuate people off the island prior to the storm,” she said.
Mr Albury admitted there is a very “unfortunate reality” of people living in partially completed homes, of which officials are aware.
After Hurricane Dorian, the government said it would bring legislation forward for mandatory evacuations, however the bill has not come to Parliament yet. Asked if mandatory evacuations will occur this hurricane season, Mr Albury stated it was “a very situational outcome”.
“... That’s going to have to be a bridge that’s crossed when we reach that point. We know a hurricane is headed our way and it’s a sizeable storm and you know that’s a decision the prime minister and the minister will have to make if we reach that point whether we’ll not need to consider mandatory evacuations. So that’s really all up in the air.”
The Ministry of Disaster Preparedness is expected to release a hurricane plan this week.