Hurricane Dorian hit the Islands of the Bahamas on the 1st of September 2019 with sustained winds of 185mph. It moved from the South to North West, around the Eastern side of Abaco and Grand Bahama. The storm lasted nearly 2 days which in comparison to Dominica (2hrs) made it incredibly destructive. There was a 15ft storm surge , bringing water miles inland. The estimated death toll was 50, however, 1500 people remain reported missing at time of writing (October 2019) as they are not declared dead until 2 years missing.
Nassau is a very affluent Americanised holiday destination with large hotels and good infrastructure, all built to high hurricane proof standards. This was largely untouched.
The island of Abaco was hardest hit with the area of Marsh Harbour being shown in the news, it has a large Haitian illegal immigrant population who were asked to evacuate to Nassau where some were detained and deported. Initial reports suggested that the level of destruction was so severe that most people would not be able to rebuild and/or the government would not be willing to assist.
Grand Bahama is split into a medium sized city, Freeport pop.2000, and small fishing villages stretching out 30 miles along a one road peninsula. The town of Freeport is independent from the Bahamian government and is owned by The Port Authority.
The centre of the town was reasonably functional but 10 miles east was a very different scene with large-scale destruction. It is only 10m above sea level so suffered badly from the storm surge. It was identified as a location we could help as there were reports of trees on houses and tracks blocked.
An oil storage facility was damaged in the storm leaking 1000's of litres of oil into the mangrove forests.
DART Secured an official invitation of assistance through liaison with Team Rubicon’s fixer on Grand Bahama, Luke Hopper, (a Cornish ex pat, School teacher), alongside a foundation called Coral Vita. Coral Vita had been assisting the locals in the outlying fishing villages with aid supplies and transport. Most importantly Luke knew the Port Authority director who sent an email back to Mike with an official acceptance of assistance involving the Assistant Prime minister.
Following this email we booked a commercial flight to Freeport with the local airline so I could start to assess the situation on the ground and meet the contacts.
For accommodation, I arranged a space on the porch of another school teacher who worked with Luke and was able to string up a hammock.
There was a satellite NEMA office in one of the government buildings where we were welcomed very enthusiastically and attended the morning meeting/registered the charity using the email to confirm our eligibility.
Luke was able to drive me around the island the first day and saw first-hand trees on houses and trees blocking access routes.
I arranged a meeting with the National parks boss through the contact with GER3 who had already been working with them through a back to work project. They were keen for us to conduct a training course with a few of their staff and also keen to receive and utilise the donated equipment at the end. This ticked off the final point in the mission parameters which is perhaps the most important and makes our charity stand out from others in leaving a legacy.
I was able to secure a couple of rooms through Airbnb in a house in Freeport so we could use it as a base to return to after doing a few days work out in the remote villages.
The team arrived on the Friday morning we sorted out the equipment and were ready to work on Saturday.