South Floridians struggle to contact families in the Bahamas

MIAMI (WSVN) - A lot of people in South Florida are waiting for word from their relatives in the Bahamas, but some have finally made contact with them.

Hurricane Dorian’s catastrophic impact on Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands is beginning to come into fuller view, Tuesday.

Even though loved ones in Florida are only a few hundred miles away, the lack of communication to the islands can make it feel much further.

The images coming out of the Bahamas are devastating, and for some South Floridians, such as Jovannia Joseph, they are also personal.

“It just hurt me to see that my mom and other people are going through it, too,” said Joseph, whose mother and brother are in the Bahamas. “I wish that my mom was here, [so] she doesn’t have to go through that problem.”

Video showed Joseph’s mother, Gertha Joseph, pleading for help and showing her Abaco home with its roof torn off.

“Please, pray for us. Pray for Abaco, please,” pleaded Joseph’s mother as she showed the heavy flooding and strong winds that threw her out of her home. “I’m begging you. My baby’s only 4 months old. Please. Please. Pray for us.”

Gertha Joseph and her baby boy, Jaylen, were in Marsh Harbour as flood waters raged around their heavily damaged apartment building.

Gertha is Jovannia Joseph’s mother, and Jaylen is her little brother.

The 19-year-old, who lives in Miami, said a phone call with her mother broke up during the storm.

“When I called her, she couldn’t hear me. She said, ‘I love you, Jovannia. I can’t hear you. I’m breaking up,'” Joseph said.

She said her mom sent her a video from inside the ravaged apartment.

“We can’t go outside. We’re still stuck inside,” said Joseph’s mother.

In texts between the two, the daughter wrote: “Mom, I love you and I’m praying for both of you.”

Her mom eventually replied with a heart, but the gravity of the situation had set in. The mother added, “I don’t have a home.”

“I was like, ‘Lord, please watch over my mom and my brother because that’s the only two people I have left,'” said Joseph, “and it hurt me because I wanted to go see mom. I want to see her. Me and my sister were planning on going to see her in December.”

Although they have been in contact, communication and information is spotty.

“I’m still trying to get in contact with her because she would tell you she’s OK, but you don’t know for sure because you’re not there, and I wanted to go there,” said Joseph as she broke down in tears.

For Dee Roberson, the waiting has also been painful. Her cousins are in Freeport.

Grand Bahama Island took a sustained beating from Hurricane Dorian’s fury.

On Tuesday, Roberson and her family members in South Florida got word that their loved ones were OK.

“We’re elated. It’s hard, and I want to cry because we’re just jubilant, just happy that they’re alive,” said Roberson.

The Prime Minister of the Bahamas has called the storm a historic tragedy.

Matthew McWilliam of Virginia Gardens said he did not know whether his family in the Bahamas would survive the storm.

Matthew’s brother, Peter, Peter’s wife and 3-year-old son were stuck in the attic of their one-story house near Freeport while the waters rose.

“I got a message from him yesterday morning, and it said that he was drowning,” said McWilliam. “He said he felt like he was going to die. He said they were going to die. He kept on saying he maybe had an hour to live, two hours to live.”

Then, the text messages stopped, but on Tuesday, a Bahamian news channel let Matthew know that his family made it out alive.

“They said on the air that he had been found, that he was safe and that the family was safe,” said McWilliam, “and that provided us with sheer ecstasy. It really was just amazing. I am just desperate to speak to him.”

The National Emergency Management Agency of the Bahamas is asking anyone who has family members missing on the islands to provide details online. They are asking those looking for family members to fill out this form.

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