Update Sept 7th, 2019: Confirmed dead as a result of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas rises
UPDATE (Thursday, September 5th, 2019):
According to reports out of New Providence, Minister of Health, Dr. Duane Sands has confirmed that the death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 people, while indicating that the final death count could be “staggering”, as the process of recovery continues.
Original Article (September 4th, 2019):
Bahamas Prime Minister, The Most Honourable Dr. Hubert Minnis on Wednesday evening, September 4th, 2019, during a national press briefing at NEMA headquarters in New Providence, confirmed that the number of deaths on the island of Abaco was now at 20 people, and that authorities expected this number to increase, adding that they would continue to update when more information was confirmed.
The Prime Minister who had recently returned from an initial aerial assessment flight over Grand Bahama, earlier on Wednesday afternoon, informed that Grand Bahama, which had previously been under water, was now cleared, but that a number of homes, businesses, other buildings and infrastructure were badly damaged.
He assured that the full resources of the government had been mobilized for search and rescue missions in both Abaco and Grand Bahama, and that additional police and defence force officers had been deployed. He also commented on the stories and accounts of looting, saying that anyone found looting or otherwise breaking the law would be prosecuted.
Bahamas Minister of National Security, Marvin Dames, who presented at the press conference immediately before Prime Minister Minnis, cautioned the public on the use of social media to mischievously spread false reports, saying that authorities had to follow up on every report, false or otherwise, which could take away from relief efforts and valuable resources away from recovery. He urged the public to act responsibly.
Prime Minister Minnis said there was an extraordinary outpouring of support for the Bahamas, and that they were welcoming teams providing relief from the international community.
Bahamians and residents, he stated, were also showing compassion and love for their brothers and sisters in Abaco and Grand Bahama with robust charitable efforts underway across the islands not affected. He, encouraged Bahamians to keep giving and volunteering with reputable charities with proven track records, saying, “This will help to bring healing, hope and restoration to those who are now so desperately in need.”
See the Prime Minister’s speech from Wednesday night’s national briefing on Hurricane Dorian below:
“I wish to once again brief the nation in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which has left generational devastation across Abaco and Grand Bahama.
I just returned from an initial air assessment flight of Grand Bahama, which was conducted on a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter. Much of Grand Bahama is under water. Many homes, businesses and other buildings and infrastructure are either decimated or badly damaged.
There are a significant number of people in shelters. There are many on Grand Bahama who are suffering.
As the Minister of National Security has already reported, so far there have been 20 confirmed deaths on Abaco. We expect there will be more. We will update the public as soon as we have accurate information. I ask you to pray for the families and loved ones of the deceased.
Fellow-Bahamians and Residents:
So many families have been deeply impacted by the devastation, including those trapped during the storm.
Just about every Bahamian throughout the country has been worried about loved ones on Grand Bahama and Abaco. As in Abaco, some Grand Bahamians have sustained life-altering injuries. Some of these injuries will require surgery and in some cases therapy.
We have all heard the stories and accounts of looting and other disturbances. Bahamians are distressed that anyone would loot and further the suffering of those affected by this tragedy. This is a terrible disregard for the safety and security of others. Be warned: We will prosecute looters and other lawbreakers to the full extent of the law. We are a country of laws.
I have mobilized the full resources of the Government for search and recovery missions in Abaco and Grand Bahama.
To reinforce security on these islands, additional police and defense officers have already been deployed. More security personnel were transported to Abaco today. There are approximately 60 Royal Bahamas Police Force officers permanently stationed on Abaco. Quite a number of these officers have lost their homes, yet they are acting with resolve and with bravery in the performance of their duties. They have been working nonstop before and after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.
We will be deploying sufficient officers to maintain the peace and to provide for general law and order.
Bahamians are deeply grateful for our first responders, who are putting their lives on the line for their fellow-Bahamians and residents. We know there are many who need help. I want to assure you that more help is on the way.
On Abaco, there is already help on the ground in terms of food and water from local sources. Supplies are on the way from NEMA, the Royal Bahamas Defense Force, the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom and many other sources, including from the private sector. Let me thank the private sector for their outpouring of support. There is also other assistance, including from Chef José Andrés of World Central Kitchen.
I want to thank the brave men and women of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, staff at our public hospitals and clinics and other first responders, for their brave and hard work before and during this crisis. These brave men and women are saving and protecting lives. They are working hard to ease the suffering of those who have lost so much.
Carnival Corporation has partnered with Tropical Shipping and NEMA to collect and deliver NEMA-approved food and supplies donated in South Florida for Bahamian residents affected by the storm. Deliveries will begin as soon as the harbours in the respective islands have been cleared and are safe. A contractor was mobilized today to begin clearing the harbour at Marsh Harbour, Abaco. The Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeline Arison Family Foundation have also pledged $2 million dollars to the Hurricane Dorian recovery and relief effort. Tropical Shipping is offering friends and family of residents affected by Hurricane Dorian a 50 per cent reduction on some shipping rates. Carnival has pledged to continue with their planned major project for Grand Bahama. We will sign a Heads of Agreement at the earliest possible date. Disney Cruise Line has also pledged to donate $1 million to relief efforts.
Due to the devastating effects of hurricane Dorian, The Leonard M. Thompson International Airport at Marsh Harbour, Abaco, and the Grand Bahama International Airport at Freeport are presently closed. During the closure of these airports, it is strongly advised that all flights, other than search and rescue missions and humanitarian relief flights coordinated through NEMA, refrain from operating in the airspace in the vicinity of both airports. This is to allow the unencumbered operation of vital lifesaving and relief flights.
Fellow-Bahamians and residents:
I also want to thank the first responders from the international community, and especially those from the United States, for their exceptional assistance. There has been an extraordinary outpouring of support at home and abroad from those who want to do whatever they can for Grand Bahama and Abaco. We are welcoming teams from the international community and from our Caricom friends and neighbors to aid in the response.
Many Caricom leaders have told me that they remember well that The Bahamas stood with them in their hour of need. This includes in Dominica in 2017 after the devastation of Hurricane Irma, which was also hit by Hurricane Maria. Caricom Chairman Alan Chastanet, the Prime Minister of St. Lucia, and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley will arrive in The Bahamas tomorrow. We will discuss what support Caricom may offer toward relief and recovery efforts.
This afternoon I met with the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, Mr. Mark Lowcock, and his team. He offered the solidarity and condolences of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. The UN has pledged $1 million in aid. The United Nations will be sending in more experts to help with the relief and recovery efforts, including the provision and distribution of food and water. The UN has also extended help in any other areas that we might need for recovery.
This afternoon I spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump, who has expressed the support of and pledged the assistance of the United States of America for The Bahamas in our time of need. I thanked President Trump for the enormous generosity of the United States, including the work of the U.S. Coast Guard in helping to rescue the injured, and in helping with other logistical support and air transportation.
Earlier today I spoke with the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. The Canadian Prime Minister offered his sympathy, thoughts, condolences and support for The Bahamas. Canada has pledged half a million dollars in immediate support. Prime Minister Trudeau noted that Canada is sending representatives to The Bahamas to provide additional assistance and support.
Canada is a longstanding friend of The Bahama
Fellow Bahamians and residents:
As Prime Minister, I assure you that no effort will be spared in rescuing those still in danger; feeding those who are hungry; and providing shelter to those who are without homes. Our response will be day and night, day after day, week after week, month after month, until the lives of our people return to some degree of normalcy.
The people of the Bahamas are already showing their compassion and love of their brothers and sisters on Abaco and Grand Bahama. Robust charitable efforts are underway across the islands not affected. I want to again encourage Bahamians to keep giving and volunteering with reputable charities with proven records. This will help bring healing, hope and restoration to those who are now so desperately in need.
In this time of national crisis, I advise Bahamians and residents to get their information from reputable and trusted sources.
In the social media age there is so much news that is false, inaccurate and misleading. Do not allow yourselves to be misled by fake news designed to confuse you. As a people we must stay united in a singular focus during these most difficult times.
We are all working together: government, churches, businesses, charities, as well as individuals, to rescue and restore Abaco and Grand Bahama. Mr. John Michel Clarke has been appointed as chair of Disaster Relief and Reconstruction Committee.
Mrs. Nicole Campbell, the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, will serve as Co-chair. Along with NEMA, the Relief and Reconstruction Committee will help to coordinate our national response to this national crisis.
The Committee will include a number of private sector and public sector experts and individuals with a range of expertise.
A reputable accounting firm will provide oversight to ensure that funds are properly spent. There will be regular reports to ensure accountability. This private-public sector collaboration is vital in the recovery and reconstruction of Abaco and Grand Bahama, both of which we will rebuild stronger and more resilient.
Fellow-Bahamians and Residents:
This is not the time for partisan politics or divisiveness. The Bahamian spirit is resilient and unbreakable. We will meet this awesome challenge with the same mindset that led us to build this chain of islands over generations. Hard work, focus, tenacity, love and compassion are what we are about. We will persevere because we are a people of hope. There is something each one of us can do to help. Let us all give of our best in this moment of historic tragedy.
On its current track, Dorian has the potential to affect parts of the US southeastern coast and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. I advise Bahamians in those areas to pay attention to local advisories, and to take every necessary precaution to be safe. Even in our hour of need let us pray for the those citizens and residents of Canda and the United States of America still in the path of Hurricane Dorian.
Let me advise the international press and potential visitors that New Providence, Paradise Island and the other Islands of The Bahamas are open to receiving tourists and guests. One of the best ways that people from around the world can show their support and solidarity with The Bahamas at this time, is to visit our other islands by air or by cruise ship. One prominent visitor who visited The Bahamas with his wife in February, and who loved his visit here, pledged to return again in February for a visit.
To keep our economy strong in order to help with recovery and reconstruction, we will need to keep our booming tourism economy vibrant. We must keep our economy strong and resilient in order to help in the rescue and recovery of those in need.
Most of us have relatives on Grand Bahama and Abaco. They will have to rely on us, especially those of us on New Providence, to rebuild their lives. New Providence must be the bedrock and the command center to rebuild Grand Bahama and Abaco.
We will rebuild better and stronger!
Fellow-Bahamians and Residents:
In this hour of need, let us make Joshua 1:9 our prayer:
“Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
The world is praying for us, including Pope Francis, who prayed today: “I invite you, each within your own heart, to pray for our brothers and sisters who have lost their lives of who are suffering because of the hurricane in the Bahamas.”
In this spirit; Let us pray for the dead and for their families.
Let us pray for the injured and those in distress.
Let us pray all first responders.
Let us pray for those who are still seeking missing loved ones.
Let us pray for one another.
And may I humbly ask for your prayers and assure you of my prayers and the prayers of my wife, Patrica and my family.
Let us continue to remain steadfast in our faith and to rely on our God, who made heaven and earth, and who restores hope and lives. Thank you and good evening. I will now take questions from the press.”
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