Saturday, 8 October 2016

BAHAMAS: Hurricane Matthew, Bahamas Assessing Damage

Bahamian authorities were on Friday assessing the damage done by Hurricane Matthew that tore through the chain of islands on Thursday.

There were no immediate reports of deaths and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) gave the all clear for the entire Commonwealth of The Bahamas early Friday.

The Ministry of Tourism said it had begun assessing hotel properties, beaches and other touristic sites throughout the Islands.

But it said that initial reports indicate that there was no major damage on the Family Islands.

“The country’s tourism product fared well during Hurricane Matthew with Grand Bahama, New Providence and Andros receiving the brunt of the storm. It is unclear at this time to what extent Grand Bahama was affected by Hurricane Matthew, “the Ministry of Tourism said in a statement.

Officials from the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) said they are conducting clean-up and assessment exercises at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) with a view to restoring operations as early as Saturday.

The Port of Nassau will open on Saturday and officials are currently conducting assessments and clean-up exercises. It is expected that at least two cruise ships will call on the Port on Saturday.

“I am so pleased that there are reports of only minor damage in our family islands and on New Providence. We are still awaiting official reports from Grand Bahama but are ready to respond to that island’s needs.

“We are cognizant that we are a blessed nation because we took quite a lashing from such a powerful category four hurricane and received no loss of life or widespread destruction,” said Joy Jibrilu, director general of tourism.

“We would like to extend our heartfelt thoughts and prayers for all the residents of The Bahamas who have been affected by the storm.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the citizens of Haiti where at last report there were over 400 people believed to be dead. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with our Caribbean family in recovery exercises,” she said, adding “we are also keeping the US state of Florida in our hearts as Hurricane Matthew moves through”.

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism’s (BMOT) crisis management team, which said it is continuing to liaise with NEMA, the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), Nassau Airport Development Company, the Port Authority and other relevant authorities, is urging industry partners advising them to allow NEMA, the appropriate government agency, to conduct the initial damage and needs assessment in all the affected areas.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said he was disappointed that thieves used the storm as an opportunity to carry out criminal activities.

“While most of the people of Fox Hill worked together during the storm, the Sandilands Primary School was broken into and all its computers from its computer lab were stolen and the principal’s office was ransacked on the day the hurricane struck by persons unknown.

“This is reprehensible and disgusting. How can someone be so morally bankrupt as to use a storm to rob little children of a chance at a decent future? I ask the community to keep their eyes and ears open to find these thieves and report them to the police who are investigating,” Mitchell said

The Bahamas Telecommunication Company (BTC) Friday said it was providing all customers with a five dollar mobile credit “to help families stay in contact with their loved-ones following the storm".

The company said that it has managed to maintain above average service levels through-out the storm and that restoration efforts have already started in the South East Islands and other areas

“In the areas that were most impacted, namely, New Providence and Grand Bahama, the resident BTC Teams were dispatched immediately following the “all clear” to conduct assessments and restorations. Basic communications are in place in most of the Family Islands.

“Additionally, BTC has already identified teams for assessments and restoration in the impacted islands and with the opening of the airports on Saturday, October 8, 2016, those teams will travel to conduct assessments and complete repairs. “

The Bahamas Power and Light Company Limited (BPL) said it has started restoring power to customers, noting that is action plan for restoration is a step down approach impacting the largest amount of customers first and continuing on to smaller groupings and then individual customers.

“Given the extent of the damage restoration could, for some, take several days or even longer. There are numerous issues that may impact the restoration process including; severe flooding on several parts of the island.

“We fully understand how critical power is in helping you recover from such a destructive storm; however, while we will work hard to get power restored to all communities, we will do so safely.

“We cannot and will not jeopardise the safety of our teams or customers to expedite this process. We hope customers can appreciate the extremity of this situation and will work along with us to help all communities and the entire country bounce back after this devastating storm,” the BBL added.
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