Labelling Hurricane Dorian the nation’s most devastating natural disaster the country has ever experienced Senator J. Kwasi Thompson, said this is also a gift of opportunity to strategically rebuild the two Northern Islands – Abaco and Grand Bahama – and redefine the way the country prepares for disasters.
During his contribution to the Disaster Preparedness Debate Monday morning, Thompson added that Grand Bahama has long proven its resilience.
“Grand Bahama has long proven its resiliency, having been rattled by numerous major hurricanes – Frances, Jeanne, Wilma, Matthew. And while recovery is not an overnight process, Grand Bahamians worked tirelessly to rebuild after each setback.
“The homeowners, business owners, service providers and community stakeholders in Grand Bahama have a glowing reputation of supporting one another and restoring some semblance of normalcy.
“Indeed, Dorian was an experience like no other. We have faced storms and restored before, but none like this. Unprecedented damage not only to infrastructure, but unfortunately the loss of lives and psychological trauma that this storm caused,” he noted.
As it relates to returning to some semblance of normalcy post-Hurricane Dorian, Thompson shared with his colleagues, an update on government offices and relocations.
“Despite varied levels of damage and challenges with phone lines in some instances, the vast majority of government agencies are either fully operational or operating at some capacity.
“The Office of the Prime Minister, Passport Office, Ministry of Works, Ministry of Tourism, Department of Customs, Department of Immigration, Bahamas Industrial Tribunal are all among agencies fully operational in their respective offices from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
“Key agencies whose office spaces were severely impacted have made provisions to serve the public from remote locations and/ or, at reduced hours, as necessary.
“The Department of Social Services is presently occupying space in the National Insurance Building (NIB) as well as the conference room of the Administrators Office in Freeport and a room in the C.A.Smith Complex from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. daily. The Department continues its community assessments.”
He noted that as of October 11 some 1,700 assessments have been completed.
“The areas covered include East Grand Bahama, West Grand Bahama and the City of Freeport.
“The Department of Labour is also operating out of the C. A. Smith Building from 9 a.m to 4 :00 p.m. and the Department of Education from 10:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m.
“The Department of Road Traffic is among agencies whose office repairs are ongoing. However, the main office and inspection center are open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m,” informed the Senator.
As for the National Insurance Board, Thompson revealed that a number of locations are presently open to assist residents throughout the island.
The NIB main office is operating on the ground floor of the NIB Building between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Their Eight Mile Rock location is open to the public between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. while NIB operations will continue at the C.A. Smith Complex between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The NIB West End Sub Office’s hours of operation are Tuesday and Thursdays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Referencing the commencement of school openings here on the Island of Grand Bahama, Thompson expressed, “Tertiary educational institutions are in full swing for the Fall 2019 semester.
“BTVI Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute is fully operational. Classes are being held both at the main campus as well as in classrooms at St. George’s High School in the evenings as space is limited at the main campus during the day.
“UB (University of The Bahamas) Northern Campus, located in East Grand Bahama faced catastrophic damage. UB North is now occupying space in the Teachers Credit Union Building as well as classrooms at Bishop Michael Eldon High School in the evenings. Saturday and Sunday classes have been added to the schedule to accommodate students in the best way possible.
“Both UB and BTVI have ensured their commitments to the students, and have made special provisions to ensure students can take the classes they need to complete their programs. Attendance at both institutions are free to Bahamians as a result of the Free National Movement (FNM) initiative,” he explained.
With respect to government operated primary, junior and high schools, Thompson shared that all schools received some form of damage due to Hurricane Dorian, some more than others.
“All government schools on Grand Bahama received damages, however the extent varied from minimal to severe damages. While repairs are not yet complete, schools are now open for the 2019/2020 academic year. Most campuses require roof and ceiling repairs. The record level flood waters, were a major cause of damage, resulting in mould remediation became an immediate priority in all schools.”
Primary Schools in the Freeport area, Maurice Moore, Freeport Primary and Walter Parker experienced interior damages, loss of shingles and damaged roofs, in some cases.
Hugh Campbell Primary School was one of the schools that experienced the most damage of interior and exterior walls and ceilings and incurred flooding of four-to-six feet of water.
High schools, Jack Hayward, St. Georges, and Eight Mile Rock all experienced ceiling damages.
West End Primary School suffered major roof damage and lost an entire school block that housed four rooms.
East End Primary, East Preschool, East End Junior High and Sweeting Cay are all inoperable with interiors completely destroyed.
“We wish to assure parents that contractors continued work on these schools particularly Hugh Campbell and Maurice Moore on the weekend and will continue work until these schools are back in pre-hurricane shape. Contracts were issued for some $500,000.00 of work,” said Thompson.