By Lincoln DePradine
The Bahamian people, who are in need of clean water, food, housing and other essentials following the passage of Hurricane Dorian that left a trail of death and destruction, remain in strong spirit, according to the top diplomat for The Bahamas in Canada.
Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane with winds of up to 185 miles an hour, “devastated two of our major islands – Grand Bahama and Abaco’’, Alvin A. Smith, the Ottawa-based Bahamian High Commissioner to Canada, said Monday. “Amidst this havoc, the spirit of our people has not been broken,’’ said the high commission in a news release signed by Smith.
Dorian made landfall in The Bahamas on September 1, remaining stationary over the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island for two days. The official death toll has been put at more than 45, but the final count is expected to be considerably higher.
Electricity and water supply services were severely affected by the hurricane, which left some 70,000 Bahamians homeless. Some of the homeless are leaving, seeking to enter the United States via Florida, which is only about 80 miles from The Bahamas.
Several Bahamians, who were headed to the U.S. last Sunday, were ordered off a boat by American officials. U.S President Donald Trump defended the decision. Without providing evidence to back his claim, Trump said The Bahamas had some “very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers”.
“Everyone needs totally proper documentation,’’ Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday. “I don’t want to allow people who weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people.’’
Many American politicians, from both the Democratic and Republican parties, are urging the government to suspend visa requirements to help reunite Bahamians with relatives in the U.S.
Meanwhile, in Canada, individuals and organizations are continuing with their mobilization efforts to collect and donate supplies to The Bahamas.
GlobalMedic – a Toronto-based non-profit organization that provides short-term, immediate support following disasters around the world – was one of the first to respond to the tragedy in The Bahamas, sending a team of volunteers, as well as cargo that included two water purification units, a solar light and water-cleaning packets.
The volunteers, say GlobalMedic officials, are expected to be in The Bahamas for weeks or months. “We are going to keep delivering aid,’’ promised Rahul Singh, GlobalMedic’s executive director. “We don’t know how long we are going to be there as an agency.’’
Last weekend, members of the Black and Caribbean community joined other GlobalMedic volunteers in Etobicoke to pack Bahamas-bound family emergency kits filled with hygiene items and other supplies.
The community’s GlobalMedic involvement is part of a broader effort to assist The Bahamas. The effort is being coordinated by the Caribbean Consular Corps, with the support of agencies such as Caribbean North Charities Foundation and the Canadian Caribbean Disaster Relief Action.
A collection depot, for the receipt of donations, has been opened at 55 Nugget Drive, Unit 10, in Scarborough. An attempt is being made to secure a second depot in west-end Toronto. Among the donated items being sought are baby food, non-perishable foodstuff, cereal, generators, portable stoves, blankets, flashlights, gloves, mops, buckets and towels.
All this week, rescue teams were trying to reach some Bahamian communities that are still flooded and cluttered with debris. It’s believed there are bodies buried below some collapsed buildings.
Alvin Smith, The Bahamian High Commissioner, says the government and people of the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean nation “deeply appreciate the support that we have been receiving’’.
However, he added, that “the best way to support the relief and recovery effort is through a monetary contribution’’.
In this connection, a “Bahamas Disaster Relief Fund’’ has been set up at RBC Royal Bank 003. The Account Number is 1281013. The Transit Number is 05625 and the Swift Code is ROYCCAT2.
For further information about donating to The Bahamas, call 416-595-1343 or 416-578-6649.