Hur­ri­cane Dorian sur­vivors strug­gle to start new life

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dánica Coto

NAS­SAU, BAHAMAS >> Thou­sands of hur­ri­cane sur­vivors are fil­ing off boats and planes in the cap­i­tal of the Bahamas, fac­ing the prospect of start­ing their lives over but with lit­tle idea of how or where to even be­gin.

A week af­ter Hur­ri­cane Dorian laid waste to their homes, some sat in ho­tel lob­bies as they tried to fig­ure out their next step. Oth­ers were taken by bus to shel­ters jammed to ca­pac­ity. Some got rides from friends or fam­ily who of­fered a tem­po­rary place to stay.

“No one deserves to go through this,” 30-year-old Dim­ple Light­bourne said, blink­ing away tears.

Dorian dev­as­tated the Bahamas’ Abaco and Grand Ba­hama Is­lands, leav­ing at least 50 dead, with the toll cer­tain to rise as the search for bod­ies goes on.

Light­bourne’s mother, Carla Ferguson, a 51-yearold resident of Treasure Cay, walked out of a small air­port in Nas­sau with her daugh­ter and other rel­a­tives late Mon­day af­ter­noon and looked around as the sun set.

“We don’t know where we’re go­ing to stay,” she said. “We don’t know.”

Ferguson and her fam­ily had one large duf­fel bag and three plas­tic stor­age boxes, most of them stuffed with do­nated clothes they re­ceived be­fore leav­ing their tiny, dev­as­tated is­land.

The govern­ment has es­ti­mated that up to 10,000 peo­ple from the Abaco is­lands alone, in­clud­ing Treasure Cay, will need food, wa­ter and tem­po­rary hous­ing. Of­fi­cials are con­sid­er­ing set­ting up tent or con­tainer cities while they clear the coun­try’s rav­aged north­ern re­gion of de­bris so peo­ple can even­tu­ally re­turn.

Get­ting back to Abaco is the dream of Betty Ed­mond, a 43-year-old cook who picked at some fries with her son and hus­band in a restau­rant at a Nas­sau ho­tel, where her nephew is pay­ing for their stay.

They ar­rived in Nas­sau on Satur­day night af­ter a six-hour boat trip from Abaco and plan to fly to Florida on Wed­nes­day, thanks to plane tick­ets bought by friends who will pro­vide them a tem­po­rary home un­til they can find jobs. But the goal is to re­turn, Ed­mond said.

“Home will al­ways be home,” she said. “Ev­ery day you wish you could go back.”

“You try to keep your hopes up, but ...,” she added, her voice trail­ing off as she shook her head.

The up­heaval, how­ever, was ex­cit­ing to her 8-yearold son, Kay­den Mon­es­time, who said he was look­ing for­ward to go­ing to a mall, Mc­Don­ald’s and Foot Locker.

In­stead of start­ing school Mon­day, as had been sched­uled be­fore the Cat­e­gory 5 storm hit, Kay­den spent the day ac­com­pa­ny­ing his par­ents to the bank and a shel­ter as they pre­pared for the move to the U.S.

Also fly­ing to Florida was 41-year-old Shaneka Rus­sell, who owned Smacky’s Take­away, a take­out restau­rant known for its cracked conch. The restau­rant, named af­ter the noises her son made as a baby, was destroyed by Dorian.

On Mon­day, she sat in a white plas­tic chair un­der a white plas­tic tarp as she waited for her 13-year-old son to ar­rive from Abaco.

Rus­sell said good Sa­mar­i­tans had taken her and a group of peo­ple into their home over the week­end and found them a ho­tel room in Nas­sau for a cou­ple of days.

“To know that we were go­ing to a ho­tel, with elec­tric­ity and air con­di­tion­ing and a proper shower, I cried,” she said.

Mem­bers of the Gainesvill­e, Florida, fire de­part­ment searched for bod­ies in the ruins of The Mudd, a shan­ty­town that was the Bahamas’ largest Haitian im­mi­grant com­mu­nity on Great Abaco. Its ply­wood homes were torn to pieces by Dorian.

“We’ve prob­a­bly hit at most one-tenth of this area, and so far we found five hu­man re­mains,” said Joseph Hillhouse, as­sis­tant chief of Gainesvill­e Fire Res­cue. “I would say based off of our sam­ple size, we’re go­ing to see more.”

The huge de­bris piles left by the storm are chal­leng­ing for search and re­cov­ery teams, which can­not use bull­doz­ers or other heavy equip­ment to search for the dead. That makes re­cov­ery and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion a slow process.

Carl Smith, a spokesman for the Bahamas’ Na­tional Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, said that over 2,000 peo­ple were in shel­ters across New Prov­i­dence is­land, where Nas­sau is sit­u­ated, and that some were at ca­pac­ity, but added: “There’s not re­ally a crisis.” He said the govern­ment will open other shel­ters as needed.

But 35-year-old Julie Green and her hus­band and six chil­dren — in­clud­ing 7-month-old twins — were hav­ing prob­lems find­ing a place to stay. Green said shel­ter of­fi­cials told her they couldn’t ac­cept such young chil­dren.

She said the fam­ily has slept in the home of a dif­fer­ent per­son ev­ery night since ar­riv­ing in New Prov­i­dence on Friday.

“We’re just ex­hausted,” she said. “We’re just walk­ing up and down ask­ing peo­ple if they know where we can stay.”

Sadye Fran­cis, di­rec­tor of a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, said un­met needs are grow­ing. “There are still oth­ers that have nowhere to go,” she said. “The true depth of the dev­as­ta­tion in Abaco and Grand Ba­hama is still un­fold­ing.”

Light­bourne, the Abaco resident now in Nas­sau, said she couldn’t wait to es­cape the dis­as­ter Dorian left be­hind.

“I don’t want to see the Bahamas for a while. It’s stress­ful,” she said. “I want to go to Amer­ica . ... This is a new chap­ter. I’ve ripped all the pages out. Just give me a new book to fill out.”

JOE BURBANK — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Akela Moxey, who was evac­u­ated from Freeport, Bahamas, aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas cruise ship, hugs a Royal Caribbean em­ployee, left, good­bye Satur­day af­ter ar­riv­ing in Nas­sau, Bahamas.

FER­NANDO LLANO — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A Bahamas coroners team car­ries a body out of The Mudd neigh­bor­hood in the Marsh Har­bor area of Abaco Is­land in the Bahamas in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Dorian, Mon­day.

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