By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
GRAND Bahama fared well overall during the passage of Hurricane Nicole, Minister for Grand Bahama Ginger Moxey said yesterday.
“The airport fared pretty well there,” she said. “Of course, there is some debris there and some seaweed that washed ashore, and it is being cleared right now. And so, we believe the airport will be reopened by 6pm (yesterday).”
Ms Moxey said Acting Prime Minister Chester Cooper is expected in Grand Bahama sometime today.
Yesterday, she led an assessment team into West Grand Bahama. At West End, she saw that there was some coastal flooding in the settlement, particularly along the north shore.
On her arrival shortly before noon, a crew of workers were already on the ground clearing the road of the piles of seaweed and debris that had washed ashore over the seawall.
Administrator Ricardo Ferguson was relieved that the population of West End also fared well, despite not heeding the evacuation call.
“I am happy that the population of West End is well, even though they stayed, and they hunkered down during the storm.
“West End is back up and running and ready to move forward,” he said.
The major concern of residents there, he said, is the lack of drainage in the community. “That is the key thing down here in the west, we need to put in proper drainage so that what you see behind us here, we will not experience.”
Ms Moxey and her team visited the residence of Errol Miller whose front yard was flooded with seawater.
He was at home when a surge of seawater swept over the seawall.
“I was home when I noticed the (sea) water starting to come over the seawall, and then after a while the water started to come in the yard, but the water never made it inside my house. It just settled in the yard,” Mr Miller said.
Roselyn Russell, owner of The Chicken Nest restaurant, which is also located on Bayfront Road on the north side, said there was some flooding, lots of rain, and wind.
“I stayed during the storm, and it rained a bit, and it was windy,” she recalled. “Water came through the windows because I don’t think they had sealed it properly.
“As you can see, I have some boxes out there to soak up the water, and upstairs we had to line the windows with towels to catch the water because water was coming through,” Ms Russell said.
“The seawater came all the way to the back, but it was only like two inches. I had no flooding inside, just mostly rain coming through the window. We could not control it because it kept coming in.”
Speaking to the flooding in West End, Ms Moxey believes the long-term solution to the issue is the need for more drainage in the area and additional seawalls.
“We need to get more drainage in here, we also need to build additional seawalls. That is a part of the budget, and we are focused really on resiliency.
“The master plan for this island that we are working on is tied to building with resiliency and for mitigation because Grand Bahama is known as the centre of resilience because we deal with so many of these storms. And so, moving ahead we look to strengthen our infrastructure and be able to build with resiliency.”
When asked whether she would support an extension of the Special Economic Recovery Zone in the wake of the storm, Ms Moxey said: “I would support anything that brings benefit to Grand Bahama. Of course, there are considerations that would have to be taken and the government has said that it will look at each case on a case-by-case basis. And so, I think we are still really supporting development moving forward based on what we’ve been through - Grand Bahama and Abaco. And so, I don’t think it is that we won’t support it, I think it is more on a case-by-case basis. And so, I think that’s where it needs to be clarified, not just this blanket approach.”
On the question of mandatory evacuations in reference to Sweeting’s Cay, Ms Moxey said it is something that has been discussed.
Thirty-six residents had evacuated, while ten remained.
“I think we will get to the point where we go further into that, but right now we did everything we could. We sent out warnings, we made preparations to bring people to the mainland, and so I believe that we did well with that.”
“I know we have been very supportive and as a government we have done all we can to ensure our people are safe.”
Senator James Turner led the assessment to East End.
Mr Turner reported that he and a team went as far as High Rock.
He said there was moderate flooding and roofs that were already compromised were damaged a bit more.
“But no one got hurt, and we thank God for that,” he said.
Senator Kirkland Russell, deputy director of Urban Renewal, indicated that the government is focusing its efforts into recovery and repair with the passing of Nicole.
“We have done what was necessary in preparation and managing the shelters, evacuating, and ensuring EOC was properly manned and operated at high standard. Now, we shift into recovery and repair, and the government wants to ensure all our residents who have been suffering from Dorian, and those who may have incurred new damage and issues who need assistance, that the government is ready, and teams are already out doing assessment, and once the DPM hits the ground further instructions will be given.”
Water has been fully restored to Grand Bahama, however, power was restored to only several areas by yesterday afternoon.