Rebuilding Lives After A Hurricane

It took me some time to gather my thoughts and feelings after the destruction of Hurricane Irma, which was closely followed by Maria. The scale of the damage left in many of the Caribbean Islands has not been seen since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Although the easterly islands of the Caribbean feared the worse, some of the southerly islands in The Bahamas are practically uninhabitable, namely, Ragged Island and Rum Cay. The clean up process begins, but for many families the process to rebuild their lives and resume some kind of normality will take years. I commend the Government of The Bahamas for their swift action in ensuring those residents in the Southern Bahamas were evacuated to the capital before the onslaught of Hurricane Irma and the Bahamas Red Cross for leading the restoration process. The Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Honourable Dr. Hubert Minnis, has also announced plans to accommodate students from Dominica displaced from Hurricane Maria, which left the island in tatters.

As a child growing up in Nassau, I have seen and experienced my fair share of hurricanes and the emotional impact left on communities, families and an entire nation. No amount of planning can prepare you for the aftermath. It was August 1992, three weeks before I was due to start college, Hurricane Andrew made its landfall on the Islands of The Bahamas. The initial reports by the Bahamas Meteorology Department was a watch for the Northwest Bahamas, including Andros, Eleuthera Islands, Grand Bahama and Great Abaco. However, hours later, this was upgraded to a hurricane 5 and expected to hit the entire Bahamas before midnight. You can imagine the fright and chaos that pursued. Within hours, the grocery stores were empty, water was scarce and houses boarded up. Although there were some who felt they could weather the storm without any preparation, but survive on prayer alone. The hurricane struck for four days and even when the winds calmed down and the rain stopped, there was still fear from many whether to venture outdoors. It would be weeks before electricity was restored, months before school reopened and businesses resumed services. However, for families left homeless from this tragedy, the psychological impact still haunts them today, my family included.

What can we expect in years to come, when more tropical disasters strike our islands and leave communities in disarray? Those islands which reside several hundred people, that depend on a generator to provide electricity for the entire island and its only means of obtaining water is from the neighbouring well. How many more category 5 hurricanes can they survive? It has been predicted for decades that the landscape of The Bahamas being flat with its highest point at 214ft high (on Mt. Alvernia, Cat Island), will be non existent due to the rising sea levels and natural disasters that impact the livelihoods and infrastructure of these vulnerable small islands. This is why climate change is so important, and although these islands are the least responsible for climate change, they are likely to suffer the most from its adverse effects. We need the assistance of the international community if we are to survive the impact of future natural disasters.

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