Update from Abaco

Originally posted on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/52257991478/permalink/10156349050461479?sfns=mo

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Good Afternoon Abaco Friends. First, a confession. I want to be clear, I am not a journalist. My posts here on this community page are meant to be nothing more than a single aggregation of what is consistently changing information. I try very hard to qualify the information but when I can’t, I try and use the words UNCONFIRMED. I hope everyone understands. Our community was originally designed to be group of enthusiasts with a common love for these islands. That remains, but the site has certainly grown into something different today.

So, here is the latest I have...

The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, is conducting a Rapid Assessment exercise today of the areas mostly impacted by the powerful and deadly Hurricane Dorian. This team will assess the damage of infrastructure, see how many people are displaced and inspect critical facilities with a view to how quickly life can be restored to some sense of normalcy. The team will also assess damage and make recommendations to the Government regarding relief, recovery and reconstruction.

Tracy Cooper, Managing Dir of BahamasAir has released a clarification statement that says services to TC resumed yesterday and that emergency relief flights are to resume to MH today. Flights to Freeport will resume once the all clear is given. Tracy also confirmed that individuals seeking to leave Abaco will be provided passage free of charge. (SOURCE: doc shared with me on BahamasAir letterhead)

The list of missing persons continues to grow. With a severely damaged communications infrastructure, finding missing persons has been extremely difficult leaving many to rely on word of mouth. A local resident of Abaco has launched www.dorianpeoplesearch.com Persons seeking missing loved ones and friends, god bless all of you, please use and share this site to aid in the your search efforts.

With a massive outpouring of relief arriving from around the world, the ability to get this aid into the event area has become increasingly challenging. Frustrations are growing between those in need and relief aid providers. The Bahamian Gov has found themselves squarely in the middle. As was shared previously, the Aviation Authority requires all relief efforts by air to be pre-approved in order to control flow to airports. However, the actions of those not adhering to the process, has overwhelmed the Bahamian aviation systems. Simply put, there are too many airplanes now operating in the airspace. Those disregarding air space restrictions are creating serious safety issues for all aviators in the Northern and Central Bahamas. This is especially true in and around Abaco and Grand Bahamas. On Thursday, relief flights were stopped at 1:00pm as ATC simply could not handle the volume of inbound traffic into Bahamian airspace. For relief workers, working so hard to get desperately needed aid into the area, this stoppage created bottlenecks at many of their distribution hubs.

For relief aid flowing on the ground the concerns immediately turn to looting. The Royal Bahamian Defense Force has secured the TC airport and things in TC seem to be orderly. Looting has been reported deeper in the community. In MH, the situation is much different. We are hearing that MH airport, the port and the clinic are secure. However, outside of these areas there is a serious lack of security - especially downtown. IF THE BAHAMIAN GOVERNMENT AND/OR BRITISH NAVY FOLLOW THESE POSTS… SECURITY IS NEEDED IN DOWNTOWN MARSH HARBOR - URGENTLY!

As aviation slows, we are hearing that there is a growing volume of boaters from the states and surrounding islands preparing to deliver their relief supplies to the affected area – many arriving today. It is IMPORTANT that those delivering relief by boat are adhering to all advisories and controls established by the Bahamian Government. Also, they should seriously consider the following SA prior to their departure.

(1) There are no active marinas, no power, no ice, no water.

(2) There are numerous unmarked hazards floating and beneath the surface. Numerous hazards exist on land as well.

(3) There is no fuel – do not expect to refuel for the return trip.

(4) There are an extremely limited number of accessible docks.

(5) Security conditions in some areas on the mainland have deteriorated – especially after dark.

Regarding import tax, please adhere to the guidelines in the IMPORT PROCESS for HURRICANE RELIEF SUPPLIES under the Hurricane Dorian Exigency Order of September 2, 2019 found on the Bahamas Government website (mid page – right side – Exigent Order).

There are several international relief orgs doing AMAZING work around the clock on island as we speak. WH Kitchen (#chefsforbahamas) have been flying in warm meals by helicopter for GTC TC and MH. They also were seen cooking warm meals for locals at Boat Harbor Marina on Monday. Samaritan’s Purse has deployed their mobile field hospital to Nassau to provide lifesaving care for up to 100 patients per day. The mobile hospital includes an ER Room, Intensive Care and Operating Rooms. Additionally, TEAM RUBICON continues search and rescue operations by foot across the devastated areas. Just to name a few. A big THANK YOU to these organizations. 

Lastly, our community here has been incredibly genuine and supporting. Offers to help have been incredible. If I can ask everyone to please please please keep politics off the page, I think we will all appreciate your restraint. People who choose to use this community as a forum to grind their political axe will find themselves permanently banned from our community – there will be NO WARNING! (God, I hated to have to write that!) I think we can all agree this is not the community for politics. As a result, I will not comment on Sen Marco Rubio and Sen Scott’s petition to waive VISAs for Bahamians. We have all seen the petition. We trust U.S. lawmakers will make the proper decisions. Debating these matters can take place on any number of group sites outside of this one.

For those of you following the story of the mother with infant in the now infamous video seen worldwide (protecting her name for now), I am thrilled to report we were able to successfully evacuate her out of Marsh Harbor late last evening to Nassau. When I spoke with her 6:30 AM yesterday morning, she was exhausted and her baby was not well. She was soaked, in the rain and still wearing the same clothes from 5 days before. Her story (in a sea of similar stories) is in a word… incredible. I spoke with her this morning and her son has greatly improved. She told me “God Answers Prayers!" I want to call out the unrelenting determination of Catlin Kirkpatrick Jones for championing her evacuation effort.

Friends… please keep sharing. Please continue evangelizing the many needs of the Bahamian people across the communities outside this page. I know the weight of this story is heavy on all of us, and I am sure most of you feel the way Dave Meldeau and I feel today… hug your families a little tighter, a little longer... and never take a sunny day for granted again. #abacostrong

Matt Kennicott