On 1 September 2019, hurricane Dorian hit Northern Bahamas with winds of up to 185mph (298km/h) reaching category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson and equalling the highest ever recorded at landfall. The storm battered the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama for almost two days in what has been described as a stationary hurricane.
Although Grand Bahama suffered damage and floods, the Abaco Islands were hardest hit. The work of assessment teams sent by IFRC and CDEMA has been hampered by the harsh weather conditions, but footage taken from the air showed vast swathes of destruction. As we wait for initial evaluations, the Bahamas Health Minister has reported that 17 persons died in the Abaco Islands and three on Grand Bahama—these figures are likely to rise. Allow items for this declaration:
On 2 September, the Government of The Bahamas emitted a Declaration of Exigency which qualifies for the purposes of Customs Duty exemption Medicine and Medical supplies, Building materials, Tents, cots, bedding materials and mosquito nettings, Electrical fixtures and materials, Plumbing fixtures and materials, Household furniture, furnishing and appliances, Electrical Generators, Bottled Water, Clothing, Food for personal consumption and Personal hygiene products.
Early Damage Assessments and Response
Efforts to conduct needs assessments have failed due to the harsh weather conditions following the passage of hurricane Dorian. The following points provide an initial overview of what can be expected:
• Bahamas Health Minister has reported the death of 17 persons in Abaco and 3 in Grand Bahama.
• Early video footage of Abaco shows total obliteration of portions of the island and large areas on the coast completely covered by water.
• The Bahamas Red Cross has 200 volunteers prepared and working to support the families affected
• All clean water wells could be contaminated by saltwater and no other freshwater resource is available for this area.
• Secondary sources report that the main hospital on Grand Bahama is unusable while the one in Marsh Harbour (Abaco) is intact and sheltering 400 people. There are also reports of thousands in need of food and water.
• According to the first Rapid Needs Assessment Team (RNAT) aerial reconnaissance flight over Abaco, the Sandy Point airstrip in the south and Treasure Cay in north central Abaco appear to be viable. Marsh Harbor airport remains underwater. Elbow Cay has been destroyed.
• According to CDEMA, approximately 60 per cent of homes in Marsh Harbor are damaged.
• The RNAT aerial reconnaissance flight over Grand Bahama shows that the eastern part of the island is the most affected. The High Rock community has been practically destroyed. Roads are blocked. Although there were no large groups of people seen from above, scatted groups of people are trying to move west; however, the blocked roads impede their path. Oil spills from damaged oil tanks were spotted as well. The western part of the island, where Freeport is located, was not as badly damaged. Some areas in the west in Freeport are flooded, including an airport. There are cars and people moving in the streets.