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PM updates nation on hurricane relief efforts

Prime Minister Perry Christie led a delegation on Saturday to islands affected by Hurricane Joaquin. 

Monday, October 5, 2015
Monday, October 5, 2015

Prime Minister Perry Christie led a delegation on Saturday to islands affected by Hurricane Joaquin.

Members of the delegation included Cabinet ministers, members of the opposition Dr Hubert Minnis and Hubert Chipman MP, and top officials from NEMA, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Royal Bahamas Defence Force, BTC and BEC.

The Prime Minister held a press conference Saturday evening at the airport in Exuma after flying over several other hurricane affected islands and a visit to Long Island.

“We are not going to spare any effort at all in being able to bring immediate assistance to the people wherever they are,” said the Prime Minister.

The delegation had the opportunity to speak to residents in Long Island about what they have been through and what they needed. Officials also began conducting assessments as it relates to humanitarian needs, telecommunication challenges and electricity concerns on the island.
Prime Minister Christie stated there is major devastation in the south of Long Island.

The group also flew over other affected islands such as San Salvador, Rum Cay, Crooked Island and Acklins, but could not safely land.

However, the Prime Minister stated that in addition to Bahamian assets, the British Navy, and US coast guard are assisting in rescue efforts, assessments and repairs, and providing humanitarian aid to severely affected islands simultaneously.

Captain Stephen Russell, director of NEMA said: “We are trying to concentrate resources that will be able to bring relief to the people of these affected areas.” He highlighted that NEMA, through coordination with the US Coast Guard, were already able to rescue nine persons on Samana Cay.
Captain Russell also noted that marines are being deployed to Inagua in order to mobilize upon Acklins, Crooked Island and Long Island.

Leon Williams, CEO of BTC commented that the company has lost towers in Crooked Island and Long Island, and that BTC staff is working 24/7 to restore communications.

The general manager of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), Kevin Basden said during the press conference that BEC is “going to take every step to ensure customers’ [power] is restored as quickly as possible.”

He announced that while a great deal of infrastructure was still intact, flooding is a major challenge. The urgency is to continue assessments and get the priority circuits on. Basden stressed that BEC would be ensuring that resources are allocated to allow teams to work on multiple islands at the same time. He reminded residents to stay away from downed power lines and allow the experts to deal with them.

The Prime Minister stressed that the Ministry of Social services will be having a very dynamic and immediate impact on recovery efforts. Minister Melanie Griffin stated that teams from Nassau will be conducting assessments as early as Sunday. This includes determining not only the physical needs of persons, but their psychological needs as well.

Dr Hubert Minnis said: “We always try to take an approach to this that is based on national challenges and appreciation that we have to work together to overcome what our people are confronted with.”

Dr Minnis called upon churches and schools to organize donations and aid for those affected. He also stated that this is a time for the country to come together.

“There’s no red and there’s no yellow. When lives are at stake we must all work together to ensure the safety…of those particular lives.”

To conclude the press conference, the Prime Minister announced that he had received information from the Commissioner of Police which revealed that as of Saturday evening, there has been no confirmed loss of life as a result of the hurricane.

He said in the coming hours and days, the government will continue to dedicate resources to strengthen NEMA’s capacity to effect the recovery efforts. Special teams of persons with certain qualifications such as engineering, social service and healthcare, will be deployed to help with relief and restoration activities.

The Finance Ministry has issued a statement in response to international ratings agency Standard & Poor’s recent downgrade of The Bahamas’ credit rating.

A government delegation travelled to the Family Islands that were hit by Hurricane Joaquin to assess damages at the weekend. Watch a ZNS Network news report here.

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