“My sister is a diamond in the rough. I cherish her to the moon and back,” said 32-year old, security officer and mother of two, Laurel Dean, as she recounts how the quick reactions of her sister prevented her 10-year old daughter from flying away in the hurricane. “I’ve watched movies and stuff, but to see it knock on my door – I never would’ve expected it.”
Dean was at home with her sister and two daughters in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, when the hurricane struck. “We watched the water rise outside the window, and the wind started blowing so strong, it took the wood from our windows and blew the glass out,” she recounted. “When the eye began to pass, I knew we had to make a run for it.”
The family waded in water up to their necks and tried to seek shelter at a health center. “It was a tragedy. People were fighting to get in… trying to open the door. We saw the defense force, who took us in their jeep and drove us to safety in the government complex.” But when they arrived, a gust of wind hit her daughter, picking her up into the air. “If my sister didn’t swing out in time to grab her, I would’ve lost her,” she said. “Fortunately, we all came out of this unhurt.”
Similar accounts were also heard from Carlton Nixon, a 29-year old welder and father of two living on Abaco. “My apartment is on a hill so you think you’re safe. But it’s a wooden house. It held up but every second that passed we thought the roof would blow off,” he said.
Like Dean, Nixon was most concerned about the welfare of his children.
“When the eye passed over, we thought we were ok. But half an hour later, it came back twice as strong,” he recalls. “I thought it was over for me so I made my two children a fortress in the fridge.”
A few minutes later, another family, whose roof had blown off, came running into Dean’s house for shelter. Together they were able to barricade the windows with furniture and ride out the storm. Nixon and his family all escaped unhurt, and only the mother of the other family had a cut to her leg, which she was able to get treated.
Following the devastation, the family was then able to access clean, bottled water from a distribution point in the port, and visit the health center for food and tetanus shots.
Patricia Clarke Rollee was deployed by the Ministry of Health to manage the Marsh Harbour Healthcare Centre following the Hurricane in order to ensure that Dean, Nixon and others can all access the healthcare they need during the immediate aftermath.
“We make sure that the clinic is open 24-hours,” she said, highlighting that the staff who are currently living on-site, are cooking, cleaning and attending patients… “everything to make sure that we’re operational and open.”
Rollee estimates that the clinic is treating around 40 patients each day since the hurricane, assisting the injured and pregnant women, and providing tetanus shots. She also mentioned that a lot of patients are presenting with anxiety and psychological trauma. “A lot of people have been coming in seeking to identify their loved ones. Some people just need a hug and an “its going to be alright.””
The clinic is also housing international teams that are in Abaco to provide support, including a K9 team from Canada. “We’re up and running but we need to get back to our glory days,” she said. “We don’t want anyone to forget us here. Recovery will take years.”
PAHO supporting hurricane relief
PAHO has been on the ground in the Bahamas, even prior to Hurricane Dorian making landfall, and continues to work on the island providing water and sanitation expertise, as well as logistics, disease surveillance, coordination, data management and civil-military cooperation. PAHO’s Disaster Response Team is supporting in the Ministry of Health in all areas of response and has also launched a funding campaign for ongoing recovery efforts in the country.