What if today, with little warning, your home was completely demolished? Your car was flooded and damaged beyond repair. The boat with which you make your living? Gone. Your neighbours’ homes? The local grocery store? Your child’s school? All severely damaged — or leveled all together.
What would you eat? Where would you find clean water? Even with cash in hand, where would you buy the necessities of life?
Sadly, this is a reality faced by several thousand Bahamians after Hurricane Joaquin, a Category 4 storm, whipped up with little warning in the Atlantic and battered the southern and central Bahamas before heading back out to sea.
Because Joaquin coincided with extreme spring tides, the devastation left in the storm’s path is almost unimaginable, particularly on Long Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador, Acklins Island and Crooked Island.
On many of these islands, the electrical infrastructure was so severely damaged that it will take months or longer to restore power to the residents. Conditions on Crooked Island were so dire that residents had to be evacuated to Nassau by the Royal Navy.
While the story of the storm has begun to fade from news headlines, the needs of those affected or displaced by Joaquin are as critical as ever.
Though most have had their immediate requirements — food, water, shelter, clothing, etc., – met, they now face the overwhelming task of rebuilding their homes, communities and lives.
They need building and roofing materials. They need furniture, appliances and telephones. They need cribs and car seats, towels and bed linens. They need school books, supplies and uniforms for their children.
And, with the holiday season barely two months away, no doubt hundreds of Bahamian parents are wondering whether they’ll have roofs over their heads, let alone Christmas trees with presents beneath.
Along with aid from the Bahamian, U.S. and U.K. governments, southern and central Bahamians are receiving substantial support directly from their fellow citizens, second homeowners and friends and family abroad.
On Green Turtle Cay, which fortunately avoided most of Joaquin’s wrath, aid for affected Bahamians has been coordinated by the Green Turtle Cay Volunteer Fire and Rescue. The entire community — including the students, teachers and parents of Amy Roberts Primary School and Tiny Turtles Preschool, who assembled individual care packages — has rallied to package up relief supplies, which are being shipped to the mainland via Green Turtle Cay Ferry and delivered to ZigZag Aviation in Marsh Harbour to be flown south.
Elsewhere in Abaco, numerous businesses and residents are collecting and contributing money, supplies and labour:
- Abaco Groceries is offering a discount on storm relief supplies, and they’ll package and ship the items.
- Abaco Hardware has set up a “Joaquin Hurricane Relief Fund” — all contributions to this account will be used to purchase supplies for the rebuilding effort.
- Cherokee Aviation and Cherokee Air are donating fuel to relief aircraft.
- Abaco Fly Fishing Guide Association – are gathering contributions to rebuild fly-fishing-related businesses.
- The Elbow Cay Community Association (ECCA) has established a GoFundMe page and Abaco Crash Fire Rescue has set up a YouCaring page to raise funds.
In Nassau, Lia Head-Rigby and Gina Knowles, administrators of the HeadKnowles Facebook page (a private, online meeting place for Bahamians), have mobilized a virtual army of volunteers to gather donations, collect and deliver supplies and provide labour for repairing and rebuilding damaged structures. They’ve set up a public HeadKnowles website and Facebook page specifically for the relief effort, and established a YouCaring page to collect contributions.
As this list assembled by the Nassau Tribune indicates, relief and fundraising efforts to assist those affected by Joaquin are underway throughout the Bahamas.
- The Rotary Clubs of the Bahamas have set up an Indiegogo crowdfunding page and are also collecting donations by mail or in person.
- Trans Island Airways has established a YouCaring page to collect donations toward fuel costs. (For a fascinating description of the relief efforts spearheaded by Trans Island Airways, see Stephen Aranha’s series of posts on his blog Under the Almond Tree.)
- Long Island Hurricane Relief has set up a Scotia Bank account to collect donations to pay for fuel and supplies.
- In Florida, Island Imports has offered its Fort Lauderdale warehouse to collect donations and supplies, and is working with Cargo Charter Operations in South Florida to deliver these items. The company’s offices are open Monday-Friday at Island Freight Forwarders, 1810 NW 51st Place, Suite 40A, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309. For more information, contact (954) 235-7318 or (954) 681-4481 in Fort Lauderdale or (242) 356-6733 in Nassau.
Over the longer term, perhaps the best way we can all help the central and southern Bahamian islands is to visit them. Tourism is vital to the communities there, and our travel dollars will support and hasten their economic recovery.
Did you know that, in less than 90 minutes, you can fly south from Nassau to some of the country’s most fascinating, breathtaking and unspoiled destinations? Here are some links to assist with your 2016 vacation planning (hint, hint…)
Note: many of the above photos appear on multiple Facebook pages and other online sources, making it difficult to discern who the original photographers are. If you see any of your photos posted here, please let me know and I’m happy to include a photo credit for you.