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Bahamas PM speaks out on Hurricane Irene aftermath

NASSAU, Bahamas – Statement by The Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham Prime Minister of The Bahamas on Hurricane Irene aftermath:

Fellow Bahamians,

I address you tonight in the aftermath of the passage of Hurricane Irene. As we assess the damage caused by the storm and move to provide assistance and restore our damaged homes, businesses, churches and public infrastructure, we can all say, “To God be the glory for the great things He has done”.

We have no more precious asset in this world than that of the life we have been given and I am happy to report that in the wake of this dangerous storm, there has not been any loss of life or significant injury to any person. This is truly remarkable.

I am pleased to report that all hurricane alerts have been discontinued for The Bahamas as Hurricane Irene has departed our waters. We pray that territories to our north in the United States of America will fare well during the next several days as the storm moves along its eastern seaboard.

I want to commend NEMA, the police, local government officials, and all public officers and volunteers who coordinated our preparedness, manned our shelters and generally ensured that Bahamians and visitors to our country were well informed on the approach and possible impact of the Hurricane upon life, buildings and infrastructure and further informed on appropriate measures to take to ensure that they and their families and businesses would be safe during and after the storm.

In all, some 1,016 persons sought refuge at hurricane shelters: 156 in New Providence and 860 throughout the Family Islands. I am advised that all of the shelters in New Providence have now closed.

I want, in particular, to commend the Department of Meteorology for the timeliness of its weather information; the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force for their continuous presence throughout the storm; and, our emergency health teams who commenced emergency operation on Wednesday ahead of the arrival of the hurricane and who remained on duty throughout. The Ministry of Health has given every assurance that all community health clinics around the country have adequate supplies of medications and that they will continue to be properly and adequately supplied in the weeks and months ahead.

Reaction teams from the Ministry of Public Works, the Department of Environmental Health Services, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Royal Bahamas Defence Force moved expeditiously to clear main public thoroughfares in New Providence, even before the “all clear” was given by the Department of Meteorology and they are especially thanked.
The Department of Environmental Health Services mobilised 20 garbage trucks on New Providence in advance of the hurricane to collect household garbage. An additional 12 independent truckers were also engaged to collect bulk waste throughout the island of New Providence.
I am advised that the team re-mobilised at 2:00pm on Thursday providing assistance to road clearing exercises. The team also responded to individual calls where roofs of homes were damaged as a result of trees falling. Today, 40 teams were mobilised to continue clearing the main road arteries in Fox Hill, Bain and Grants Towns, Kennedy, Malcolm Road and in the city.
Simultaneously, on Thursday evening the Ministry of Public Works deployed teams comprised of seven independent operators to five sectors of New Providence – West (North Sector), North Central, East, South Central and West (South Sector) to clear fallen trees from all major thoroughfares. It is expected that most of the clearing work will be completed by end of the day on Saturday though some removal of debris from verges can be expected to extend into Monday.
Prior to the arrival of the storm Royal Bahamas Defence Force Officers were deployed to Cat Island and Eleuthera. They joined officers posted in Grand Bahama, Abaco and Inagua.
I fully expect that Local Government officials and elected representatives will have commenced similar clean-up initiatives in their communities as is their practice. Where required, additional financial support will be provided for those initiatives from the central Government in the days ahead.
I also wish to commend the Bahamian people, who in the main took heed of advisories, preparing their homes and businesses against the storm.

Hurricane Irene was a big and dangerous storm and we are especially fortunate to have sustained damage primarily to vegetation and to structures.

Preliminary indications are that serious structural damage was sustained by Government offices, clinics, schools, police stations, and other infrastructure facilities including public docks in Coopers Town and Moores Island, Abaco and in George Town Exuma as well as to private dwellings and businesses in some Family Islands notably in Acklins, Crooked Island, Cat Island, Mayaguana, Exuma and some communities in Abaco.

Most other island communities have reported varying degrees of damage to private homes, businesses, farms, fishing boats and churches. Roofs of homes, and other building sustained damage in Mayaguana, Rum Cay, San Salvador, Cat Island, Long Island, Eleuthera, Spanish Wells and Harbour Island, Exuma, Abaco, Grand Bahama and New Providence.

Thankfully, Grand Bahama, which bore the brunt of the hurricanes impacting our country in 2004/05, was spared the worse of the impact of Hurricane Irene. Reports indicate that while the eastern end of the island was harder hit than other parts, much of the island received minimal impact from the storm’s passing.

With regards to developments throughout The Bahamas, I am advised that hotels and beach fronts on Exuma experienced damage. Minor landscaping and other damages were experienced at some hotel properties on New Providence and on Paradise Island.

There was no damage to either of the oil storage and transhipment terminals on Grand Bahama and minimal damage to some of the hotels on that island due to storm surges and debris.

Assessments are being made in respect of other developments through out the Family Islands.

Reports of flooding have been received for parts of Cat Island, Exuma, Mayaguana, San Salvador, South Eleuthera, North Long Island, Freeport at Queen’s Cove, the Fishing Hole Road and West End, Rum Cay, Central Abaco (Murphy Town) and in low lying areas of New Providence, in particular at Lady Slipper Avenue off Soldier Rd and at Trinidad Avenue in Elizabeth Estates and to a lesser extent at the usual places prone to flooding. Contractors engaged to blow wells and clear drains were mobilised today and are expected to complete their work by tomorrow.

All communities, as might be expected, suffered interruption to one or more of the public utility services during the storm. Since the passing of the storm, water, electricity, telephone and cable television services are being restored.

With regard to electricity, I am advised that all Primary Substations in New Providence are energized and supplies have been restored. BEC crews were dispatched yesterday afternoon and immediately began assessment of the damages and restoration of supplies. Crews worked throughout the night and by 10:30 a.m. today, supply was restored to many of New Providence’s customers. At present, BEC has several teams in various communities where they are working expeditiously to fully restore supply.

I am advised that Family Island communities’ electrical supplies are being restored as follows:

Generally restored on Andros, except for two small pockets, one in the North and another in the South. There are only minor interruption of supply in Bimini, Inagua and Rum Cay.

Partially restored in parts of Abaco, Eleuthera, Crooked Island, Great Harbour Cay and Long Island (between Salt Pond and Deals) and San Salvador.

Full restoration is expected in Great Harbour Cay later today.

Restoration of electricity is in progress on the mainland of Exuma and assessments continue to be carried out throughout the Exuma Cays.

Electricity supply remains off on Cat Island, Acklins and Mayaguana where pole and line replacements are required. On Cat Island forty seven high voltage poles and 15 low voltage poles require replacement. I am also advised that some damage was sustained to the roof of the power station in Cat Island. In Acklins, 14 poles and heavy equipment are required to facilitate restoration of electricity and in Mayaguana five (5) poles require replacement.

The Lynden Pindling International Airport reopened for business this morning. The Department of Civil Aviation advises that the following Family Island Airports are operational: Inagua, Mayaguana (small aircraft only), Abaco (Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay); Deadman’s Cay, Long Island; Eleuthera; New Bight, Cat Island; San Salvador; Crooked Island; Acklins; Exuma; and Ragged Island.

Bahamasair has advised that it resumed flights to Marsh Harbour, Abaco; San Salvador, Long Island and Exuma today. Tomorrow, flights will resume to Acklins, Crooked Island, Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera and Freeport, Grand Bahama.

Bahamasair informs that it will resume flights to other islands in The Bahamas as airports are cleared for operation by the Department of Civil Aviation and they are advised by CAD.
The Water and Sewerage Corporation has reported that on New Providence there was no damage done to its operations. However, consumers are asked to conserve water supplies as water supplies will be limited for the next 3 to 7 days.

I am advised that on the Family Islands water operations remained operable except on a few islands. Interrupted supplies on Inagua are being remedied though I am advised that this will take some 2 to 3 days due to mechanical issues.

Remedies for interrupted water supplies in North and South Eleuthera are being pursued however, North Eleuthera’s supply is
affected by the closure of the Glass Window Bridge.

Supplies will be restored to Mayaguana and Crooked Island with the use of generators. Assessments are still being made with respect to water supplies for Acklins and Crooked Island.
I wish to advise that even before the storm had departed our waters offers of assistance have been received from the Government of the United States of America, from private sector friends of The Bahamas around the United States and from our sister Caribbean state, Jamaica whose Defence Force will fly a reconnaissance flight over Inagua tomorrow.

The Caribbean Development Bank today advised of availability of an Emergency Relief Grant of up to US $200,000 and soft loans if required.

Earlier today, my Deputy the Hon. Brent Symonette accompanied by a BIS videographer flew around The Bahamas courtesy US DEA helicopter ro have a look at the damage caused by the storm.

Also, at 1PM today, NEMA’s first fact finding flight departed Nassau for Acklins, Crooked Island and Long Island with emergency supplies of water.

Assessment teams comprising Cabinet Ministers and public officers are also being dispatched to all affected communities beginning tomorrow. The first of those departing for Cat Island tomorrow will, in addition to Ministers, include representatives from NEMA, the Department of Social Services, the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), The Water and Sewerage Corporation, Bahamas Electricity Corporation, Bahamas Telecommunications Company, Bahamas National Geographic Information System (BNGIS) Unit, the Department of Meteorology and members of the Royal Bahamas Police and Royal Bahamas Defence Forces.

A second aircraft, scheduled to depart tomorrow morning, will transport 3 Defence Force officers with supplies of food, blankets, sheets, pots and tarps for Cat Island, Acklins and Crooked Island.

I will commence a series of visits to affected Family Islands tomorrow morning. I expect to visit Grand Cay, Abaco from where we have not yet received reports of the impact of the storm; Green Turtle Cay, which has reported some flooding and damage to roofs and to vegetation, and the central parts of Abaco (Murphy Town). I expect thereafter to travel to Cat Island, Exuma, Inagua and a number of the other affected islands in the southern Bahamas. I expect to be in the southern Bahamas for two or more days.

My Fellow Bahamians, as I close, let me say that this storm has come at a very challenging time for our country. Our economy is still recovering from the impact of the global economic crisis. It is likely that we will experience some setback as a result of Irene’s passage but we are also mindful that things could have been much worse. We will continue to be focused on creating every opportunity for greater economic recovery, with particular emphasis on job creation. We will continue to provide social support where necessary, so that those most affected can receive the relief they need.

In every time of trial, community is an enormous asset because we can achieve more together than we can apart. I urge us therefore, to work together to bring relief and recovery to our citizens. Let’s be neighbours wherever possible, so that the spirit of community and brotherly love might be the powerful force that lifts our nation in these challenging times.

God bless you all and God bless The Bahamas.

PM Hubert Ingram

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