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More than 1,000 flown out of islands in Irma’s path
  • Evacuees from Inagua disembark a Bahamasair plane after arriving at Lynden Pindling International Airport in New Providence yesterday. PHOTOS: TORRELL GLINTON

  • Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis greets a man who was evacuated from Inagua yesterday morning.

  • Clarice Curling-Wood weeps as she and Judy Sauers (right), two Ragged Island evacuees, exit the domestic terminal of the Lynden Pindling International Airport after being evacuated yesterday.

Guardian Staff Reporters
jayme@nasguard.com & sloan@nasguard.com

Published: Sep 07, 2017

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Heeding the call of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to evacuate the southeastern islands of The Bahamas as catastrophic Category 5 Hurricane Irma approaches, hundreds of Family Islanders yesterday left their homes, almost everything they own and, in some instances, family members to seek safe haven in New Providence.

At least 1,000 people from Acklins, Crooked Island, Inagua, Long Cay, Mayaguana, Ragged Island and San Salvador flooded Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) as they arrived on flights the government organized to retrieve them.

Irma is expected to impact those islands as early as today.

Most The Guardian spoke with insisted that they were simply not willing to take the risk of staying.

Sydney Delancy and his family of nine, were among those residents to evacuate Inagua.

“It was the only right thing to do,” Delancy said, as he held his four-month-old close to his chest.

“Category 5, babies, we got to go.”

Delancy and his wife have four children.

He said he could not take that chance with his family, especially after experiencing the harrowing wrath of Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew.

“It wasn’t a good experience,” he said.

“It was really the aftermath that made us didn’t want to stay.

“A lot of coastal damage, flooding, having to wait on power to come on.”

He insisted that as far as possessions he left behind, “all of those things can be replaced, family can’t.”

Pastor Kenrick Major, who evacuated Inagua with a family of 10, said he left the island because it’s “a wise decision and it’s a safe decision”.

“At first, I really didn’t want to go and leave my home, leave my properties and stuff like that.

“But when I see the broadcast on ZNS and the administrator gave me some advice and said how powerful the storm was and I saw the advertisements from NEMA, I got my family together and we sat down and we spoke.

“It was a wise decision from the administration and the government.

“The first time I ever experienced it, that a government evacuated a whole island like that before a storm. I’m impressed.

“I’m happy just to be here, where I can be with my family and friends and hopefully it don’t come this way.”

Major said after experienceing Hurricane Matthew, he did not want to go through that again.

“It was an experience,” he said.

“It was an eye opener.

“I experienced Matthew and I experienced Ike (2008).

“It is the breeze, the wind, the noise.

“Sometimes you are in the place and you feel like the roof is about to tear off and you pray that every little noise you hear in the roof, the roof doesn’t come off over your head.

“So sometimes the only thing you can do is pray.”

Minnis, opposition leader Philip Brave Davis, and Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper greeted evacuees from Inagua yesterday morning after they touched down at Lynden Pindling International Airport.

With most wearing smiles across their faces, residents expressed gratitude for the unprecedented island-wide evacuation.

Iva Nixon, 79, was assisted by the prime minister from the aircraft steps and escorted to a wheelchair.

“I think it’s an excellent idea what they did,” said Nixon, who has been a resident of Inagua for 56 years.

“It never happened before, but at my age I lived to see it happen.

“I feel good. I feel good, because at this time, you shouldn’t think about material things. You should think about lives.”

Nixon said she has never had to leave the island due to a storm, but the threat of Hurricane Irma is too frightening.

“Of course, I didn’t want to leave, but after everyone keep calling and saying, ‘come’, I decided to leave,” she said.

“I don’t think about material things, but I still have someone in Inagua to think about.

“My son, Michael Nixon.”

Nixon said her son had to stay on the island for his job.

“Yes, I am afraid for him. I am going to pray for him, very much,” she said.

Nixon added that while in New Providence, she will be staying with another one of her sons.

Isabel Roker, lifelong resident of Inagua, said she decided to leave the island because of the pressures from her family in New Providence.

She said though she left her home, she is not the least bit concerned for the material things she left behind.

Latisha Smith, 79, who lives on Inagua, was among the second group of people to land in New Providence yesterday.

The old woman carried a small floral print bag that contained “anything she could grab”.

Smith heard the news of the evacuation by word of mouth. She said she did not have much time to prepare but was adamant about “escaping a sinking ship”.

Though she told The Nassau Guardian that she was awake from 4 a.m. on Wednesday and was hungry and exhausted, Smith found the strength to give God thanks.

“To God be the glory for great things he has done,” Smith said.

“This is my first time leaving from Inagua to come here in a hurricane.

“All of my hurricane days I spent it in my house in Matthew Town, Inagua.

“This time I prayed and said, ‘Lord, I want you to [help me to make] the right decision.’

“I [didn’t] want to make [any] wrong steps so I got up that morning and prayed and I said I better go.”

Smith, though grateful that she made what she deemed a wise decision, told The Guardian that she is awfully worried about her son who chose to stay behind.

“He told me he survived other hurricanes so he should be good this time,” she said.

“But I am worried. I am worried because the people said this storm will be worst than all the others.

“But [ my son] said he is concerned that other people who stayed behind will go into our house and steal everything.

“He doesn’t want them to steal so he’s watching the house.”

Cestina Finley, 70, is also from Inagua. She said she could not risk being left behind.

“It was too much of a risk,” Finley said.

“My entire family came. We could not stay.”

Ragged Island is home to only 57 people.

The island’s Chief Councillor Demson Nesbitt and his friend Triva Grant are from Duncan Town.

They were outside LPIA waiting to be driven to a shelter.

“For all the hurricanes we stayed on Ragged Island but it was fine,” Grant said.

“But just how big it is and how bad it sounds, we weren’t taking any chances.

“We weren’t taking any chances especially being so far from everyone.”

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) estimated that more than 1,000 people were evacuated from the southeast islands.

Nesbitt and Grant plan to stay at one of NEMA’s shelters set up at New Providence Community Center on Blake Road, the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium, and Loyolla Hall, specifically for evacuees.

Many came to

the capital from other areas

Other Family Islanders also flew to New Providence seeking a safe haven from the storm’s expected wrath, including people from Eleuthera and Bimini.

Though he was not living on one of the islands the government ordered to be evacuated, Trueman Cox, 43, said he came to New Providence from Ocean Cay, Bimini, because Hurricane Irma is serious.

“Whenever we hear about hurricanes in The Bahamas, we don’t take it lightly, especially when you are on a cay, when there is no place to stay and steady enough to take a hurricane,” Cox said.

“Because we never had [this] kind of hurricane pressure before, it is something to take serious and it’s like we are not going to take chances with the employees or our lives.

“We work on the cay and we come to the safe haven which is Nassau, hoping that everything goes well.”

Tisha Dames-Smith, and her three-year-old daughter came in from Black Point, Exuma, also taking refuge from the coming storm.

“We are not taking any chances, and Nassau is our home island so we prefer to be home,” she said.

“And besides, we live on a hill in Garden Hills, so we figure it would be safer than where we are.”

Dames-Smith said she fears the possibility of flooding in the home she left in Exuma.

“The islands are small, we live a bit across from the beach, so we are not taking any chances with the storm surges coming in, we rather be in the center of the island here in Nassau,” she said.

Chrishanne Swann Lachapel, 38, is an author and the mother of a 14-month-old boy.

She works at Hilton at Resorts World Bimini.

“I did it for him,” she said as she held her son.

“I couldnt take the risk to keep the baby in a category five storm.

“I know what it’s like to endure 115 miles per hour.

“I just couldn’t do this.”

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