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Minnis: Evacuation not political

  • Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis (center) and Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis (right) greet evacuees from Inagua yesterday morning. TORRELL GLINTON

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Sep 07, 2017

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Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday stressed the importance of not politicizing Hurricane Irma, following the unprecedented evacuation of hundreds of people from the southern islands.

Minnis and Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis greeted evacuees from Inagua yesterday morning, after they touched down at Lynden Pindling International Airport.

On Tuesday night, the prime minister ordered an emergency evacuation of the southern islands, warning that Hurricane Irma poses a “dire threat” to the residents on those islands.

Flights came in from Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay and Ragged Island throughout the day.

“What we witnessed today is history,” Minnis said.

“We have a monster storm coming through The Bahamas from those southern areas.

“We have sent out a warning to our residents, and as you can see they accepted and most would have volunteered to come out.

“We have organized various planes to evacuate individuals from the southern islands, including Ragged Island.

“We have had one or two hiccups initially, in that we felt some numbers were not correct, however, NEMA and we got great assistance also from the leader of the opposition and I think all of our hiccups are clear.

“So, I want to thank the opposition leader for offering his support also, because this is not a political event.

“This is a national event and it shows the maturity as we move forward when both political parties get together for one common purpose and that is to save lives and show the Bahamian people that we are one family and we continue to work as a united group.”

Several buses were waiting outside the airport, to transport Family Island residents to different shelters.

As they disembarked the aircraft residents appeared thankful and appreciative.

Some insisting that the evacuation allowed them to breathe a sigh of relief.

Evacuees were taken to the New Providence Community Center on Blake Road and any spillovers were transported to the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium and Loyola Hall on Gladstone Road.

NEMA estimated that approximately 1,000 people were evacuated from the southeast islands.

When asked how many people would have stayed on the southern islands, Minnis said, “Almost all have opted to come and...we have isolated sufficient aircrafts to bring all out and in addition to that, we have backup in case we overlook one or two, we will get them out also.”

The prime minister also asked members of the Bahamian public to donate anything they could to assist residents who were evacuated.

“We ask the Bahamian public, that we would still need their support donating whatever they can because this is a national event and we need complete national support as we move forward,” he said.

“I am certain with God’s help and blessing we will get over this and as soon as possible, we will hopefully, after assessments, we will hopefully dispatch individuals back to their respective area.

“We recognize that we will have post hurricane challenges but we are already working on that so the entire process goes as smooth as possible.

“The opposition leader is potentially the next prime minister and we believe in succession planning.

“This is history in the making, this has never happened before when you are talking about air evacuations of entire islands to the capital and it is essential we have involvement of both parties.

“As we move forward in the future, we may be posed with a similar situation and when you talk about succession planning, he would know how to deal with that and it’s all in the interest of the Bahamian populous.

“I thank the opposition and others for being on board and helping this and making it a non-political event.”

When asked about the possible cost for the evacuation exercise, Minnis charged, “Money is immaterial when it comes to lives. You don’t put money on lives.”

Irma, a Category 5 storm with wind speeds up to 185 miles per hour, is expected to hit the southern islands today.

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