By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ONE year after Hurricane Dorian ripped through their homes — leaving behind a trail of unimaginable and widespread destruction — many Abaco residents are still struggling to rebuild their shattered lives.
Yesterday, The Tribune told just a few of their stories. Like today’s accounts, there are many others who have terrible ordeals to relate.
Martha Roberts, who hails from Man-O-War Cay, a small cay located about eight miles northwest from Marsh Harbour, believes that life will never be what it once was for Abaco residents. It is a harsh reality she has come to terms with.
“It will be a very, very long time if it’s ever the same because some buildings have gone down that were a hundred years old so you look at those places and no matter what build back up. It’s not the same,” she told The Tribune.
Mrs Roberts said while her home did not experience any major damage during the storm, her two sons along with many others were not so lucky.
The situation, she said, has forced them to relocate elsewhere, robbing her of the opportunity to spend quality time with her grandchildren.
“Fortunately, we were blessed. Our home, we didn’t have a lot of damage. We had a lot of water in, but we didn’t have a lot of roof damage. Water came but we were blessed because both of our boys lost their houses,” she said.
“So, this first anniversary is very, very emotional. I look back at my mother-in-law having to live with us. She lost her home (to the storm). My mother and father both had passed but they had a beautiful home on the hill overlooking the ocean and their house was demolished. So, it’s been a lot of sadness.”
Mrs Roberts said there are some 300 people currently living in Man-O-War Cay to date, many of whom have just recently returned from abroad and elsewhere.
“So many left – families with children to get to school or felt they were traumatised by what they’d been through and then to keep looking at things around here and their homes are too damaged to live in,” she said.
“A man could find somewhere to shack up but you talk about families with no electricity, nowhere to sleep, nowhere to dry. It’s difficult. Gradually some of the families are now coming home but like with (my son), it’s not happening.”
Asked about the restoration process on the cay, she said it is progressing tremendously, thanks to the help of the various non-governmental agencies.
“I’m sorry to say that our government really, really let us down by not receiving help from them like we should. But we had so much outside help.”
Some 9.3 miles away from Man-O-War Cay lies Great Guana Cay, home to the exclusive resort, Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club.
On Great Guana Cay, there is a feeling of neglect among islanders there who say they are disappointed with the government and lack of progress being made.
“The Prime Minister has not been here. We’ve not seen any sign of help from the government. It’s just a mess, a total mess,” said one longtime resident, who asked to be kept anonymous.
A year after Hurricane Dorian, the resident told The Tribune that only some 25 percent of repairs on the island has been completed, thanks to the resilience of the Guana Cay people.
“The only thing that’s being done is what the people are doing physically for themselves… What Guana Cay looks like now is what it looked like back in (Hurricane) Floyd,” he said.
With no electricity, the resident, who is also a business owner, said he spends over $3,000 per month on diesel for a generator to run one of his establishments.
“You have people who don’t have no electricity, no cold water, no bathing water to start with so they have to buy five gallons of water to bathe with. You have to be able to have a grocery store to have something to eat or drink especially for their workers and being out in the hot sun.
“We got microwaves in the grocery stores so they could come and heat up their foods. We have a lot of them that come in around four or three in the afternoon and they line up by the microwave and they heat up their cold pizzas, sandwiches just to eat dinner. People don’t know.”
In Hope Town, there is also a strong feeling of abandonment among residents there. The issue, however, is also compounded by looting and theft concerns.
Junior Mernard, a longtime resident of Hope Town, claimed the cay has not seen a police or defence force officer since May.
The growing problem, he said, has become the island’s new norm and poses a major threat to the future of the island and its residents.
He said: “There is no law and order here on the island and about two weeks ago, we literally had a riot here where a young man was physically attacked by a mob and the worst part about that was the fight escalated into a roadblock.
“We have not had a police station on this island since the month of May. I think some homeowners have been having second thoughts about restoring their home and continuing their investments in Abaco — Hope Town in particular.”
He added: “I have been agitating to the minister of national security, Marvin Dames who has just been a total failure to this hope town community.”
Asked how many people are currently living on Hope Town, he replied: “I would say about 400 and of that 400, a lot of them are here (undocumented migrants).”
Last week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis told reporters clean-up is essentially “complete” on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. While he said Bahamians will be “shocked” at the work that has been done to date, Dr Minnis told reporters it is unfortunate that many feel progress should happen overnight.
“I am very very pleased with the progress that is being made,” he said in response to a question from The Tribune. “I think that you would be very very surprised when the ministry does a one-year report and you could see. I think the entire Bahamas would be extremely shocked.”