Double Disaster: Bahamas continuing to recover from Hurricane Dorian amid pandemic

(WSVN) - South Florida got lucky last year with no direct hit from any storms, but the Bahamas were devastated by Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, and because of the coronavirus, people there are now facing a “Double Disaster.” The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek has the story.

Packing wind gusts of more than 220 mph, Dorian slammed into the Abaco Islands on Sept. 1.

Woman: “Pray for Abaco. Please, I’m begging you!”

Then, the system stalled, pounding the island with Category 5 winds and a 20-foot storm surge for more than 36 hours.

Woman: “The whole roof came off.”

Man: “We can’t get down. It’s a two-story structure.”

Seventy people died. Nearly 300 people are still missing.

Cindy Pinder, lives on Abaco Island: “They just found two more skeletons in Grand Bahama.”

Cindy Pinder lives on Great Abaco Island. Dorian destroyed her family’s poultry farm. Now, the COVID pandemic has put a stop to rebuilding their business and almost everything else on the island.

Cindy Pinder: “Our poultry houses were on order. They’re being built down in Argentina, and approximately one week before they were going to be delivered, they had to shut their plant because of COVID. A lot of people haven’t been able to do anything to their homes yet. A lot of people are living in tents. Some people are living in dome houses.”

These days, downtown Marsh Harbour is desolate. There are tarps on many roofs. With only 30% of the power restored, most businesses, like this gas station, are still running on generators, and the last thing the Abacos are ready for is another hurricane season.

Cindy Pinder: “We’re in limbo waiting for materials to get here, waiting for people to come back and help us. It’s a tough situation.”

Six miles away in Hope Town on Tiny Elbow Cay, only about a quarter of the people have electricity from generators, and clean running water is scarce.

Ed Stroebel, Hope 4 Hope Town: “Imagine going through this whole pandemic without running water to wash your hands, without the supplies you need.”

Ed Stroebel heads up a non-profit called Hope 4 Hope Town. His volunteers helped with clean up and evacuations after Dorian, and they were just beginning the process of rebuilding roofs on 75 homes when COVID-19 hit.

Ed Stroebel: “They’re definitely not going to be ready. You’ve got to realize this is 75 homes. There’s another, there’s several hundred homes that have been repaired. There’s still thousands of homes that are gone. I mean, literally off the face of the Earth.”

In April, the group brought in heavy equipment to help with construction. They even delivered a truck for the local fire department, but the government closed the borders when the pandemic struck. That meant no U.S. volunteers could go in to help rebuild, so they’re relying on local labor.

Ed Stroebel: “We committed to these roofs right before the pandemic happened. We had people flying over the day before they closed the Bahamas. It’s terrible without COVID, and with COVID, it’s just unfathomable, and they’re scared it’s going to hit their island.”

Here’s one bit of hope for the people in the Bahamas: even though hurricane season starts June 1, the islands usually don’t see storms until the beginning of August, so those two months could give them a little extra time to prepare.

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