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Prime Minister Accompanies NEMA to Hurricane Sandy Impacted Areas
By Lindsay Thompson
Oct 29, 2012 - 4:01:57 PM

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CAT ISLAND, The Bahamas -- Erosion of the infrastructure quite visible in Knowles’, Cat Island following the destructive path of Hurricane Sand. Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, Government and NEMA officials view the site on Saturday, October 27, 2012. (BIS Photo / Peter Ramsay)

Nassau, The Bahamas - Prime Minister the Rt. Hon Perry Christie and Director of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Captain Stephen Russell embarked on an assessment mission, October 28-29, 2012, to see first hand the damage residents suffered at the hands of Hurricane Sandy.

On Wednesday, October 24, the Bahamas Department of Meteorology issued a Hurricane watch for islands in the Northwest and Central Bahamas. The storm subsequently developed into a Category 2 hurricane with winds up to 110 mph.

LONG, Island, The Bahamas -- The banana farm in Long Island destroyed when Hurricane Sandy passed through. Farmer Scofield Miller said the two-acre crop was basically destroyed. (BIS Photo / Peter Ramsay)

The hurricane left The Bahamas on Saturday, leaving extensive flooding, power outages and communications failure.

The two-day tour revealed the virtual wipe-out of banana farms in Long Island, beach erosion in some areas, the road surface and a significant amount of ground beneath it washed away in Knowles’, Cat Island, vast flooding in Queen’s Cove, Grand Bahama, causing residents to suffer the painful reality of how to rebuild their lives.

GRAND BAHAMA, The Bahamas -- Fishing Hole Road, extensively damaged by flooding during Hurricane Sandy, viewed by Government and NEMA officials, on Sunday, October 28, 2012. (BIS Photo / Peter Ramsay)

Also on the tour were Cabinet Ministers, members of NEMA’s Emergency Support Function groupings and individuals qualified to provide NEMA with the information needed to further advise the Advisory Committee and eventually local, regional and international partners.

Prime Minister Christie is chairman of the Advisory Committee.

He noted that personnel of the Department of Social Services are very active in Grand Bahama, who will assess the needs of residents and recommend assistance where appropriate.

GRAND BAHAMA, The Bahamas -- During a visit of areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie comforts Era Gibson, a resident of Queen’s Cove, Grand Bahama, who became overwhelmed while explaining her experience, on Sunday, October 28, 2012. (BIS Photo / Peter Ramsay)

“Due to the economic situation over the past two years, families are forced to come to the Urban Renewal office and Social Services for help,” Prime Minister Christie said. “The circumstances under which people live -- we have to find a way to find employment.”

A visit to a home in Eight Mile Rock, Grand Bahama, where a number of families were forced to live together due to their economic situation, prompted the Prime Minister to observe that due to NEMA’s assessment tour, certain social ills were brought to light.

The Prime Minister observed that the way the children were living in such an environment is one of the challenges the government is faced with

“We have to find the best practices under which they are to live. We have here a Minister for Grand Bahama, Dr Michael Darville. We have to rely on him to be the first responder to these situations and to help form public policy,” he said.

Other stories coming out of Queen’s Cove was the death of German Lobert Younker, who was found dead in his home by his employee Jonathan Russell. Reportedly the man refused to evacuate, even after Urban Renewal workers came to rescue him out of three feet of water.

A visit to a retired couple’s home, Ernest and Era Gibson, was an emotional moment for the pair, who had their household items out on the lawn to dry. And, another resident, Raymond Simmone -- who lived through four hurricanes impacting the area -- suffered the same experience of trying to salvage what he could after the storm.

The Prime Minister said that although the Government cannot ever compensate residents for their loss, they would be assisted in some way.

He also spoke to the possibility of enacting legislation prohibiting the development of “vulnerable areas” prone to flooding resulting in residents experiencing the same fate during a hurricane.

Other areas visited were the Fishing Hole Road, which was rendered impassable due to widespread. The flooding of that thoroughfare linking Freeport to Eight Mile Rock has been an issue for some time. An engineering and environmental impact study done by Hutchinson Whompoa is expected to be revisited.

A tour of the Freeport International Airport, which was flooded by some four feet of water and had to be closed down, also brought up the discussion of whether it is feasible to keep it operational at that site and remain the victim of excessive flooding in hurricane conditions.

Minister of Transport and Aviation the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin said the Government has to be very strategic in how and where it builds airports. Air traffic was expected to resume Monday, October 29, 2012 at 7 a.m.

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