CHRISTIANS in the Bahamas are being urged to take into their homes people who have lost everything in the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian.
The Bishop of Nassau, the Rt Revd Laish Boyd, has asked everyone in his diocese to open their doors to those affected by the category-five storm, which is known to have killed at least 50 people so far, but the final death toll is expected to be much higher. Bahamas emergency services listed 1300 people as missing, on Thursday.
Dorian is one of the most powerful Caribbean storms on record, bringing gusts more than 200 mph and a storm surge close to 24 ft, which flattened homes and destroyed infrastructure (News, 6 September).
In a pastoral letter, published in all churches in his diocese on Sunday, the Bishop urged: “Plan to take a relative, a friend, or some other person from the affected islands into your home if they need it. The destruction on the ground and the devastation of the terrain and the economy make it impossible for those areas to sustain the current population.
“Some persons will have to relocate, even if only temporarily. This is not optional. We have to take them into our homes and hearts and help them over this crisis period.”
On his island, New Providence, there was rain, wind, and flooding, but it was nothing compared with the “horrific” scenes that he witnessed when he was flown over the worst-affected areas, including the Abacos Islands and Grand Bahama.
“Dorian is a monster storm, unprecedented and extensive, which visited a historic tragedy upon these islands: the devastation has been catastrophic, such as has never been seen or imagined in these parts,” he said.
The Archdeacon, the Ven. Keith Cartwright, told the Canadian newspaper The Anglican Journal that the town of Marsh Harbour, on the island of Abaco, had been devastated. “Everything was destroyed, basically — we have no food store, no gas station, no bank . . . nothing left.”
St John the Baptist’s, in Marsh Harbour, had “two big holes in the roof” and was flooded with 10 ft of water, he said. The parish hall was flooded after its roof was ripped off. Substandard housing, “like a shanty town”, near by, accommodating a community of Haitian migrants, suffered severe damage.
“It’s just a heap of rubble now. . . We believe that a mass number of persons are still buried under the rubble there. That is what the responders are trying to do: they have completed their rescue efforts now, but they are working on recovering the bodies of those persons that we believe are underneath that rubble. It is a very, very challenging situation right now on the ground.”
Bishop Boyd warned people against being “complaining and negative”, however, and urged them “to count their blessings, to celebrate what did not go wrong”.
“This road we are on is a long one; so we have to be prayerful and positive and praising,” he said. “This will carry us over the short and long haul. Let us trust God even as we press on.”
The diocese has set up a Go Fund Me account with a target of $1 million. There are 14 Anglican congregations on the Abacos Islands and Grand Bahama, numbering 7000 people, and it is asking for donations to buy food, clean water, nappies, and shelter equipment.
The United Nations has estimated that about 70,000 people are in need of food and shelter.
Thousands of residents from the hardest-hit areas in the Abacos have been sent to the capital, Nassau, where they can be housed in tents or containers. In some of the worst-affected areas, there has already been looting by armed gangs.
Many people in the area, supported by the media, have accused the government of failing to respond quickly enough to the crisis. The online newspaper Bahamas Press said that it believed that the number of victims could climb to 3000 on Abacos alone, and that the government response was “the worst and most chaotic management of a natural disaster ever in the history of the Bahamas”.