NASSAU, Bahamas – Bahamian Government assessments of the extent of damage and needs of victims following the passage of Tropical Storm Noel are ongoing, with immediate provisions having been made for the delivery of fresh water and the removal of standing flood water from roadways.
On Friday, November 2nd Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, accompanied by Works and Transport Minister Earl Deveaux visited Long Island, Cat Island and Exuma – the islands worst hit by flooding during Noel’s torrential downpours.
In his comments to reporters during the three-island tour, Mr. Ingraham said, “We will give consideration to the extent to which the government needs to provide some assistance to persons affected negatively by the flooding. What form that will take I can’t say now, but we will certainly give consideration to it.”
While in Cat Island, the prime minister expressed concern that residents in the South were cut off from the rest of the island and that the island’s well fields were contaminated due to the flooding.
Pointing to the island’s immediate need for water supply, Mr. Ingraham said water ought to “unquestionably” have been able to be brought to the island as early as Saturday.
He affirmed that the island will have all the resources it needs to recover from the effects of Noel.
“We sent teams of people out to do assessments,” Mr. Ingraham told reporters on the ground at the New Bight Airport in South Cat Island.
“Public Health and Environmental Health are on the ground here now. The Minister of Public Works is here so we will be able to determine soon what are the most immediate things to be done.”
Continuing, Mr. Ingraham said, “There is also the likelihood for Public Works to be able to get some pumps in to pump some of the water out. In some areas that will be very difficult because you have ponds on both sides of the road. Water depth appears to be two to four feet.”
Mr. Ingraham pointed out that inspections will also need to occur to determine when homes impacted by flooding will be able to receive electricity.
Elaborating on the water pumping process, Minister Deveaux explained that Public Work’s six-inch pumps would be able to remove water from the roadways “in a few hours.”
“Our team will be on the ground tomorrow (Saturday),” he said, “but obviously we are going to have some issues with erosion on the roads.
“We’ll have to get in quickly to restore the well fields. The team that’s coming in tomorrow will look at all the docks and public infrastructure so that we can have an approximate cost and what it will take to restore them.”
Prime Minister Ingraham said the water pumps would be brought to the island via Defence Force craft, adding that members of the Defence Force will also provide assistance in the water removal process.
Cat Island Administrator Charles King affirmed the need for assistance in removing standing flood water to enable access to and for residents in South Cat Island.
He revealed reports of four families whose homes sustained flooding and advised that officials were making efforts to reach and assist those families “as soon as possible.”
Residents of Long Island, the island drenched by 15 inches of rainfall brought by Noel, continued to endure extensive flooding Friday. Most of the Deadman’s Cay Airport remained under water, as did many homes and businesses.
On the island of Exuma, six of the island’s nine schools were “extensively impacted” by flooding, according to Island Administrator Ivan Ferguson.
Mr. Ferguson reported that while the L.N Coakley High school, due to its elevation, was one of the three schools not affected by flooding, flood waters had nonetheless blocked access to the school.
During the Exuma visit, Mr. Ingraham re-iterated his concerns about the extent to which flood risk and damage are exacerbated in The Bahamas by the building of homes and businesses on low-lying areas, wetlands and swamps.
He re-emphasized that the government will introduce a new Town Planning Act to address these issues.
Minister Deveuax, who echoed those sentiments, revealed that teams on the ground in the flood ravaged areas will be equipped with GPS instruments to give “pinpoint accuracy of the flooding.”
He pointed out that information from the GPS readings will be factored into the development of future town planning regulations.