DPM responds to criticism – Says govt on top of hurricane response situation

RESPONDING TO CRITICISM – Deputy Prime Minister K. Peter Turnquest said Friday that the government is “on top” of the hurricane recovery situation, despite wide spread criticism. (PHOTO: JENNEVA RUSSELL)

“The government is working tirelessly to ensure that law and order is maintained. We have adjusted the logistics, to some extent, to ensure that persons in dire need of supplies and assistance receive them as soon as possible,” Deputy Prime Minister K. Peter Turnquest told The Freeport News on Friday, September 13. 

Turnquest, who also serves as the Member of Parliament for East Grand Bahama, one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Dorian September 2 and 3, was responding wide spread criticism of the government’s action or lack thereof, immediately following the storm. 

“After a catastrophic event like this, there is obviously going to be a lot of anxiety, frustration and anger because people have lost everything and they really do not know where they are going next or what the next steps are.

“In that kind of circumstance people become impatient. We have seen the panic, if I may use that word, with respect to the gas and lines when there was really no need for that fear because the fuel companies have assured us that there is adequate supply of fuel on the island. They are able to get more fuel as the stock runs down. And so, there was really no need for that kind of panic. 

“The same thing happens with respect to the distribution of relief supplies. People believe that they have to go out and hoard it or rush to the lines in fear that they may run out. 

“I want to give the public the reassurance that the Government of The Bahamas is in fact, on top of this situation. We are aware of the needs, and we are ensuring that we have adequate supplies on the island, to be able to carry us through this period,” Turnquest said.

“We know that there have been some logistical challenges in the initial aftermath of the storm. I think that is understandable, given the fact that of the magnitude of the storm. I do not think that any of us would have anticipated the level of destruction and displacement, to this extent. And so, there is a bit of delay and confusion in the distribution, up to recent time,” he admitted. 

Turnquest said that the government adjusted the structure and brought in Kay Forbes-Smith, Senate President, to oversee recovery efforts in Grand Bahama. 

“Everyone knows she is an organizer and a task master. So, we anticipate that we will get the structure sorted out very quickly, and we will be able to get the services to the people that they need in their communities and as soon as efficiently as possible.

“Learning from the experiences that we have had thus far, we are improving the process, making sure that we deliver the services that people need, when they need it,” added the DPM.

Speaking specifically of his constituency, East Grand Bahama, Turnquest acknowledged that the level of destruction is incomprehensible. 

“This has been an unprecedented event. I just came from McLean’s Town and Sweeting’s Cay, and again, the level of destruction is just unimaginable. So, there is going to be tremendous need in that area. 

“Again, as we knew from the initial relief supplies effort and we start to look to the construction and building phase, there is going to be even more anxiety because everyone wants to be back in their homes as soon as possible. 

“A lot of these persons come from meager means, meaning that they do not have insurance and many of the resources needed to rebuild themselves. And so, they will be looking to the government for assistance,” Turnquest added. 

“Of course, we would love to be able to help everybody, but we also know that we are also working with limited resources. We have to be smart about what we do, and whatever we do, make sure that we assist people to build back in a resilient way so that we do not face this challenge again. 

“We know that storms are becoming more frequent and stronger and so, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that we spend money wisely and that we advise the public to spend their money wisely,” he added. 

Turnquest disclosed that the level of support the government will give to residents has yet to be determined. 

“There are assessment teams coming in from the Ministry of Works, early next week, to start that process and to determine what the magnitude of the loss is so that we can then determine, based upon the resources that we have, how we ought to allocate those resources.

“Then, we will be in a better position to tell residents exactly what they can expect from the government’s side. 

“Right now, we are focused on infrastructure, getting the utilities, water and the roads back in shape, making areas passible so that people can get to their properties and start the process of cleaning out,” said the DPM. 

By doing this, Turnquest noted, the government will hopefully, be able to carry out any minor repairs in order to secure residents’ properties, specifically protecting their roofs. 

“It is a significant challenge not only here on this island, but also on Abaco. There are a lot of persons that have been displaced. The cost of supporting this operation, to shelter people, to assist and the cost that we anticipate for restoration is going to be significant. 

“We have to be careful and plan carefully and strategically, to ensure that we get as much help to as many people as possible,” he said. 

With respect to Abaco and how residents that remained on the island have been coping since the devastation of Hurricane Dorian’s devastation Turnquest said, “I had the opportunity to visit Abaco and it is as bad as people are saying it is. 

“There is tremendous destruction. The city of Marsh Harbour, really, is unrecognizable. A lot of people have left the island to the evacuation shelters in Nassau or here in Grand Bahama, which means that the population there has certainly dropped. That may be a good thing considering that there is no infrastructure on the island at the moment.

“We are looking towards finding temporary shelters for residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama, so that we get people back to the islands as quickly as possible.

“One of the things that we recognize is that we have to get commerce going in these islands, as quickly as possible because that is what is going to keep people there and bring people back home,” Turnquest said. 

He added that Abaco is going to require a lot of assistance and a lot of investment. “As you know, the utility grid itself has been completely decimated. That is not going to be inexpensive, nor is it going to be an overnight fix. And so, it will require a lot of discipline, a lot of patience. 

“We have received a lot of help from a lot of agencies, both domestically and internationally. We will do what is necessary to ensure that we get back to as close to normal as possible, as soon as possible,” said the nation’s second in command.

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