The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has repeatedly called on the government to develop a comprehensive plan for disaster risk management. We took the government to task on the mismanagement of the immediate response and evacuation of residents of Grand Bahama (GB) and Abaco.
Recent commentaries by the former Minister of Health on the handling of the Hurricane Dorian disaster has brought these mishaps to light once again. The revelations about the number of missing and deceased persons only confirms what we have all been saying all along.
It is unfortunate that the former Minister’s admission is coming several months after the DNA highlighted the inconsistencies, bureaucracy and bungling that plagued the government’s approach to this storm. For those who have been greatly impacted and lost loved ones, these confessions are coming a little too late. Nevertheless, the Bahamian people demand transparency, full disclosure and the facts for national healing.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has recommended that evacuation plans should be considered for Central Abaco, Grand Bahama, Salina Point in Acklins and Spanish Wells in Eleuthera. This suggestion is at odds with the posture and assurance provided by the Minister of State for Disaster and Reconstruction.
There have been three named storms during the 2020 Hurricane Season and this hurricane season is expected to be more active than normal. Where are the residents of GB and Abaco supposed to evacuate to? According to the 2010 National Census, the population of GB stood at 51,368 and Abaco at 17,224. Why are there no resilient and equipped shelters across our archipelago of islands weeks into the hurricane season? Why has the Prime Minister as minister responsible for NEMA not fulfilled his statutory duties? When will the government admit that the creation of various entities, agencies and ministries to oversee disaster management has been a disaster? Has NEMA been restructured to address the deficiencies identified during Dorian?
It is now clear that the government has learned little from the missteps and failures from Hurricane Dorian; they have again failed to prepare our nation for this hurricane season as suggested by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Emergency shelters in Abaco and Grand Bahama remain unfit and vulnerable. The absence of a credible plan for the mass evacuation or housing of residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama in the event of an impending major hurricane is concerning.
We call on the government to treat this matter with the utmost urgency. The lives and future of Bahamians are at stake and risk with every passing day.
Arinthia S. Komolafe
Democratic National Alliance