Central Grand Bahama MP Lewis emphasizes “hurricane” urgency

LONG LINES – Pictured are shoppers standing on long lines at Kelly True Value Ltd, Friday, August 30. (PHOTO: SHAYNE STUBBS

Member of Parliament of Central Grand Bahama, Iram Lewis, has made a plea for urgency on the part of residents in his constituency and other sectors.

Locals of the southern shore line areas and those residing in the flood zones are urged to evacuate their homes and locate to shelters this weekend as Hurricane Dorian is scheduled to enter the Bahamas Saturday night, and move to Grand Bahama on Sunday morning.

Lewis is also the Ministry of Works’ Parliamentary Secretary and he spoke from that perspective as well.

He expressed the importance of protection and the safety of those living in unstable conditions. MP Lewis informed for the attention of residents of the area that he and a team will be clearing four major drains in an effort to alleviate some of the flooding. He pointed out that there is work being done in the East and Western Division which will also be a benefit in the aftermath if an overflow occurs.

“We have already contracted Jared Russell and he is already clearing those drains. We have four major ones that will be cleared before the hurricane and that will help mitigate against the rainwater.

“We are working from East Grand Bahama to West Grand Bahama; Moracan Corner, Martin Town, Pelican Point and the Jones Town area. We are also getting extra money to clear additional drains and why we are only going to clear these major drains is because there is a flooding projection where the drains will not even be able to help. What is going to happen is, the money that we are going to put in the budget, allows readiness for us to go and clean the drain immediately after the hurricane to help with the water going down.

“This is a very wet hurricane based on the information from the meteorologist office,” he said.

“W were told that we can expect surges between 8 to 15  feet and that would cause most of the areas along the West Grand Bahama and part of the southern shoreline to be under water.

“We are right now on the ground and I am presently at the Hilton Outten Convention Center to see if it will be adequate as a hurricane shelter. We have been in contact with all the schools, Bishop Michael Eldon Auditorium, St. Georges High School Gymnasium, Eight Mile Rock Gymnasium, and they are all ready as hurricane shelters. We expect that a lot of persons will have to evacuate. Based on our laws, there is no such thing as mandatory evacuation, but we will issue evacuation orders anyhow and we will just have to urge residents, particularly in the areas that will be identified, not to take it lightly.

“If an evacuation order is given, find the nearest shelter and go there.

“If there are residents who have space to accommodate their family members, please we are urging them also to look out for their family and be their brother’s keeper. This is now the time more than ever,” he emphasized.

Lewis disclosed with the knowledge on the wet hurricane, the island is going to receive waters from the sea. He said the rush is going to be a king tide period because of the full moon. “We will have a lot of rain and my office is saying a minimum of six inches of rain, so I think we are going to have a lot of water and wind damages. You can design to withstand wind forces, but you cannot design right now to stop water,” he further stated.

Records have shown persons have opted to remain in their homes despite being warned to evacuate, and Lewis noted the value of a life is not worth the negligence.

“People get in the comfort zone and they say to themselves ‘I rode in a storm before and there was no problem’ but every time you do that, you take a risk. So as government agents or agents of the people, it is our responsibility to make sure those shelters are safe to give them options. We are doing our very best to ensure that those options are made available so that in the event we give the orders, we are asking you to abide.

“Of course persons have the right to stay at home if they wish, but they do it at a very high level of risk, and if the time comes where they realize they are now in the danger zone, it is unfair to the rescue team, to the Police officers, to NEMA and government officials to leave the safety of their homes or the shelters they are in, to go out and rescue them.

“Your life is not worth a property. You can always get the property back.

“No matter how comfortable you may be or how relaxed you are in being in your house, if the order is given to evacuate, there is a reason why they are giving that order and we are asking persons to take it extremely seriously.

“Do not take a chance. This storm is very unpredictable and based on current projections, no matter how the cookie crumbles, I believe that Grand Bahama is going to be severely impacted,” he said with conviction.

According to Lewis, the safety teams are in position and are currently checking on those who are disabled and he said they will be accommodated.

The Freeport News was informed that the shelter homes have the capacity to hold persons living in unsecured places and he urges the use of them.

“The shelters have never been totally occupied. We have never met a maximum occupancy in the shelters and right now we are getting additional shelters. If Bishop Michael Eldon Auditorium can hold 400 people, past records will show that maybe 150 persons came. St. Georges High School gymnasium can hold 400 to 600. The most that went there was maybe 300. If there is a need to max out all of the shelters that we have, we can accommodate all of those that will be in distress.

“The agents, in particular, social services and the health physicians are all a part of our safety meetings and they have their records of all of those special need cases, but preparations are being made to ensure that persons are being cared for.

“We are not leaving stones unturned. If the hurricane turns away and we don’t get anything from it, then all is well and good. But, I believe it is better to stay on the side of caution. I would prefer to assume that we are going to be severely impacted and prepare for the worst case scenario and hope for the best.

“We really want all of the general public to really take this seriously. Listen to all of the public service announcements and listen to the local news more than the international news because we have people on the ground. We are having press conferences on a regular basis. Our safety centers are well-manned with persons from every agency in Grand Bahama and we will be giving out pertinent information that we expect the public to follow.

“Do not risk your life for property. Elevate your materials as high as you can in your homes. Batten up and if you are in the flood zone, by all means get out. Shelters are being prepared for you. We are not doing this just as an exercise. We want you to be safe” concluded Lewis.

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