||Last Updated: Oct 27, 2021 - 7:47:12 PM
Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, the Hon. Myles Laroda (foreground centre), met with members of the Abaco Consultative Committee during his two-day Official Visit to Abaco and its Cays. The State-Minister was accompanied by Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister (Abaco) Mr. Kirk Cornish (right), and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation, Mr. John Pinder II (at left), in addition to Mr. Carl F. Smith, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, along with officials from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Disaster Reconstruction Authority, Abaco. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)
MARSH HARBOUR, Abaco – Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, the Hon. Myles Laroda told members of the Abaco Consultative Committee that they have an important role to play in the reconstruction of/restoration to, those parts of the island and its Cays that were devastated by the monster storm Hurricane Dorian – two years post-Dorian.
Mr. Laroda said: “No one of us is safe, until all of us are safe.”
The Consultative Committee has responsibility for Disaster Management and Response for Abaco and its Cays, and consists of various government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. Committee Members also heard from Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister (Abaco) Mr. Kirk Cornish, and Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation, Mr. John Pinder II, who both echoed the State-Minister’s sentiments.
State-Minister Laroda also visited the construction site of the new bridge that is being constructed in Cooper’s Town that will connect the communities of Cedar Harbour, Wood Cay, Mount Hope, Fox Town and Crown Haven. There is a difference in elevation of 14 feet. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)
Minister Laroda, and his colleagues, met with the Committee during Mr. Laroda’s recent Official Visit to Abaco October 21-22. The State-Minister, who also has carriage for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA), among his other portfolio responsibilities, told Committee members that the purpose of his visit was to tour the areas affected by Hurricane Dorian.
(They were accompanied by Mr. Carl F. Smith, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, in addition to officials from the National Emergency Management Agency and the Disaster Reconstruction Authority, Abaco.)
State-Minister Laroda said the meeting allowed Central Government officials and Disaster Managers and Planners to benefit from their “first-hand” experiences of the hurricane, and their various expertise and observations, in order to collectively map the way forward.
“I want to hear from you and once I hear from you, I will present my Report and see how best we can assist some of our fellow Bahamians in getting their lives back in order, or to some semblance of normalcy. No one of us is safe, until all of us are safe,” Mr. Laroda added.
State-Minister Laroda (centre) also included a visit to the clinic in Moore’s Island as part of his itinerary during his two-day Official Visit to Abaco and its Cays. Mr. Laroda promised changes to the clinic. The State-Minister is pictured with (from left): Nurse Denise McRae, Mrs. Gayle Outten-Moncur, Deputy Director, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA); Mr. Kirk Cornish, Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister (Abaco); Mr. John Pinder II, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation; Mr. Dalson Cecil Stuart, Chief Councillor, Moore’s Island District and Ms. Whelma Colebrooke, Administrator, South Abaco. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)
The State-Minister provided a detailed account of his visits, including those to the commercial fishing community of Moore’s Island, and subsequent visits to Spring City, Central Pines, Hope Town, and Green Turtle Cay, where the Minister and his delegation toured clinics, docks, landfills/staging sites, schools, government buildings, infrastructure, new housing construction, and other new construction underway, including the new bridge connecting Little Abaco (Cedars Harbour, Wood Cay, Mount Hope, Fox Town and Crown Haven) to Cooper’s Town. Little Abaco was “cut off” by high, floodwater, the result of storm surge during Hurricane Dorian.
The State-Minister said: “In Moore’s Island, I saw devastation, but I also saw resiliency of a people who are mostly fishermen, who would have erected a dock from reclaimed wood, using reclaimed nails. I toured a clinic that was literally falling apart and leaking, that needs to be replaced, not repaired. There is a lot of work to be done with homes that have been damaged. There is also the airport terminal, or lack thereof, that needs to be repaired. Windows are broken, the roof is badly damaged, totally inoperable.
“We then went into Spring City [where] the Domes were constructed to speak with some of the residents and listen to their challenges. There are electricity issues, but their main cry was about raw sewage -- that there is backed-up sewage that has to be pumped almost daily, (but) I saw people who were making as good of the situation as they can, but whose standard of living was not the best.
“We visited the landfill and had a tour of the same by the operators. We also toured the storage area for the Domes where we found that there were trailers that were opened; we saw broken locks, we saw evidence that people were coming in and taking what they wanted because the Dome materials were not properly secured.
“We then took a ferry over to Hope Town and saw some of the damage and the rebuilding of that area. Tremendous improvements have been made in Hope Town, far greater than Moore’s Island, and now we are here at the Government Complex in Marsh Harbour, holding this meeting with you to discuss the way forward with regards to the reconstruction after Dorian,” the State-Minister concluded
Parliamentary Secretary Cornish challenged the committee members to be “difference makers.”
“The experiences we encountered were eye openers. I went into the Government Clinic on Moore’s Island and the area in which they host patients is being shared with filing cabinets and you basically have to turn sideways to get in and out of there,” Mr. Cornish said.
“Two meetings were held prior to this one, and the information I received emanating out of those meetings makes me wonder why we were so silent. If it doesn’t bother any of us that there are others of us who are living everyday inhaling the stench of raw sewage as the people living in the Dome City are doing; if we can go to bed comfortable knowing that, and not fixing it, then something has to be fundamentally wrong with our thought processes. How we treat our old people, our sick people, how we treat the most vulnerable amongst us, I always thought speaks volumes as to who we are as a people.”
Mr. Cornish called for greater accountability in: “building Abaco back even better than it was before.”
“I don’t intend to occupy this seat unless I am being productive,” he said. “I have always been results-oriented. I push myself hard, and I am going to push others hard because I believe that is the only way to get results. I want you to hold me accountable, and I am going to hold you accountable.
“I am hoping that together that we can make Abaco, not what it was prior to the passage of Hurricane Dorian, but even better. Abaco can soar. Let us be the ones to make that happen. Let us be able to look back at the end of our day and feel proud of the work we would have done in helping to restore our island; proud of the work we would have done in helping to build back better. The only way we can feel proud of that work, is if it affects people in a positive way,” Mr. Cornish added.
Parliamentary Secretary Pinder said the situation “cannot remain as it is” in the still affected areas of Abaco and its Cays.
“When passing through the mainland shortly after the passage of Hurricane Dorian, and even to this day, it saddens me that we are not further ahead,” he said. “Places like Moore’s Island where their commercial fisheries, or their ability to literally just have food delivered to their island is inhibited by the lack of a dock, needs help. When you are an island-nation, an island-community, access to a dock is fundamental.
“You all know as well as I do, that there are many, many of our people who are hurting and in need, and are living very, very poorly. We have to bring a better quality of life, particularly for the next generations. If we leave things as they are and remain quiet, then nothing will get done. I take this opportunity to encourage you to enlighten us on the challenges that you see first-hand being in the various positions that you are in, and allow us to make that push, give a helping hand or take on the task of making things right,” Parliamentary Secretary Pinder added.
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