Thousands remain missing and displaced in the Bahamas following the devastating impact of Hurricane Dorian earlier this month. The storm, which struck the island chain as a category five hurricane on Sept. 1, ravaged the country, its infrastructure and its people.
The storm approached the northwestern islands of the Bahamas early the morning of Sept. 1, following evacuation orders from Bahamian officials. With wind speeds reaching up to 185 mph, the hurricane then stalled for approximately 60 hours in the area, leading to 3 days of life-threatening conditions for the residents of the northwestern Bahamas and the entire island chain generally. “We are in the midst of a historic tragedy,” Bahaman Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in a nationwide report on Monday, Sept. 2. “The devastation is unprecedented and extensive.” He further cited reports from the Carribean Disaster Management Agency, stating that the storm was the strongest recorded Atlantic storm to have struck land.
The greatest impact of the storm targeted the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, where 50 people died, 42 of whom were on the Abacos, according to reports made by the commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Anthony Ferguson, on Sept. 9. The storm also took a heavy toll on infrastructure, flooding businesses, roads and family homes. Aerial images show towns and residential areas flattened, with only the strongest buildings still standing in the areas where the storm struck hardest, including eastern Grand Bahama. Reports put the loss of infrastructure at $7 billion, with commercial Satellite images showing as much as 60 percent of Grand Bahama submerged following two days of rain and flooding.
Both domestic and international services have provided support to the post-hurricane islands, bringing in medical aid, rescue searchers, food, supplies, financial support and other much-needed support. As the focus on emergency-and-critical-response fades weeks after the hurricane, the country has set its sights on rebuilding infrastructure and stabilizing the tourism-reliant economy. The deputy director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, Ellison Thompson, responded to questions on aid by saying “all of the donations are welcome, but they can also, very much, assist us by still visiting the islands of the Bahamas in the unaffected areas. They are open for business.” According to the Bahamas Investment Authority, over half of the country’s gross annual income is linked to the tourism industry, and a consistent tourist season is an integral part of the Northwestern Bahamas’ eventual recovery.
Two weeks after the storm, recovery efforts were almost sidetracked by tropical storm Humberto that was forecasted to hit the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday, Sept. 15. However, a shift of course prevented the predicted collision that officials warned could have set back recovery even further. Meanwhile, damage is being assessed as emergency response teams work to house thousands of displaced people, return electricity to vast sections of the islands, and rebuild. However, two weeks following the storm 1,300 people remain listed as missing. A number officials say this is largely associated with people being unable to reconnect with loved ones. Despite setbacks, the northwestern islands and the country as a whole are taking active steps toward recovering from what Minnis called a “historic tragedy.”