Relief effort begins in earnest for Bahamas

The Caribbean community is beginning to marshal support for the Bahamas.

Hurricane Dorian left the Bahamas Tuesday after lingering in the area since Sunday night, and several of the country’s regional neighbours have begun putting together donations to support its recovery.

The Cayman Islands government has already offered air support from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Air Operations Unit and will offer medical support similar to the aid provided to Anguilla in 2017. Government also said it will consider sending a Cayman Airways relief flight to deliver support.

“It is vital that relief efforts are coordinated effectively by the international community and major humanitarian NGOs,” said Premier Alden McLaughlin in an official statement. “Providing financial support and ensuring regional partners have access to our equipment and other physical assets, should they require them, is the best way that we can support the people of the Bahamas at this time.”

Earlier in the day, Leader of the Opposition Arden McLean said he had asked Premier Alden McLaughlin to keep him appraised of what initiatives the government was taking to assist the Bahamas and pledged that members of the Opposition would help in local relief efforts.

The Cayman Islands Red Cross has launched an appeal to aid the people of the Bahamas, and it is encouraging people to donate money as opposed to items like clothes, shoes or toys.

Unsolicited items sent to the disaster areas can create havoc on the ground, said the Red Cross appeal, because organisations do not know they are coming or how to distribute them. Items like bottled water, it said, are bulky and costly to send, and only address the crisis for a short period of time.

The Red Cross underlined the fact that the needs of the affected population can change drastically as the response shifts out of the emergency stage. When people send money, it allows disaster relief organisations and affected individuals to spend the money in the most appropriate venue.

The appeal also stated that the Red Cross does not take any fees from moneys donated to disaster relief. The Red Cross believes that monetary donations are a more appropriate way to contribute to the cause, because sending volunteers to a disaster area would be problematic and potentially dangerous.

Boats litter the area around a marina in the Bahamas after being tossed about by Hurricane Dorian. – Photo: US Coast Guard Station Clearwater via AP

People who want to contribute to the Red Cross appeal can contact, or donate directly to the campaign at Butterfield Bank Account #1360350540060.
Governor Martyn Roper issued a statement advising citizens how they can help the Bahamas.

“I know that Caymanians feel a strong sense of empathy with the people who have been affected by Hurricane Dorian,” said Governor Roper. “As the Red Cross has pointed out, the collection of unsolicited goods by the public and organisations can harm relief efforts following disasters such as this.

“I would urge the public to provide assistance by providing funding to relief organisations like the Red Cross to enable appropriate and targeted assistance to be effective.”

The University of the West Indies has pledged to work with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Area to advise and support the needs of the people of the Bahamas.

The school – which has multiple campuses spread out among Caribbean locales – operates its Centre for Hotel and Tourism Management in Nassau in the Bahamas. Hillary Beckles, the vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, said it’s important for the Caribbean nations to band together.

“The extreme vulnerability of our region is now finally globally recognized as an existential threat caused by climate change and global warming,” he said. “Once again, we have witnessed this truth in the extensive destruction and tragic deaths caused by the growing intensity of hurricanes. As we mourn the human loss in our Bahamas family and lament their massive property destruction, the University urges policy framers to fast track the application of science in building out the region’s future resilience.”

John Wight, chairman and chief executive officer of Island Heritage’s parent company, said the company had made a “substantial” donation to the Bahamas.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas,” said Wight, the chairman and CEO of BF&M Limited. “This hurricane is unprecedented in its strength and the length of time over which it is wielding devastation. At Island Heritage, we are standing ready to do our part in beginning the process of rebuilding, not just through our donation in support of the work of the Red Cross, but by promptly assessing and processing claims once these start to come in.”

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