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Evacuees try to make the best of a trying time

  • Nassau Guardian Reporter Jayme Pinder (left) speaks with Clementina Lightbourne and her daughter, Vernita Lightbourne. Both women were evacuated from Mayaguana. Photo: Torrell Glinton

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Sep 08, 2017

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When Hurricane Joaquin hit the southern Bahamian islands in 2015, with 140 mile per hour winds and what seemed like “never-ending rain”, Daphne Hannah, who lives in Salina Point, Acklins, was four months pregnant and already the mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old boy.

Within hours of the storm’s unexpected arrival, homes and roads were flooded, leaving her, her family and neighbors stranded with only water in sight for miles.

The young mother, scared for her life and the lives of her young son and unborn baby, was among a small group rescued from Salina Point by someone in a truck who drove slowly through water that swallowed some vehicles and made the ground near invisible.

“Things were rough. They had us high up on the trucks, and they had to lift me up on the plane and stuff like that, because the road was so flooded,” said Hannah yesterday, recalling the Joaquin experience.

The woman was airlifted to New Providence, where she struggled to keep herself together for days.

With no plan, limited funds and most of her family scattered across shelters in New Providence, Hannah felt alone. She called it one of the worst experiences of her life.

She eventually returned to Acklins several weeks after the “near death” experience,

With Category 5 Irma barrelling toward the southern Bahamas, Hannah and her children were among residents evacuated from Acklins on Wednesday.

They will ride out the storm at New Providence Community Centre on Blake Road.

Sitting on a cot yesterday, Hannah said she is afraid to return home as she believes she will return to nothing.

“My home where I live is all I know,” she said.

“The only time I come down here in Nassau is to have my kids.

“If we were to go back to nothing, I don’t know what I would do.

“I’m just keeping my fingers crossed for the safety of our community, because it is just not us.”

She said, “When we heard about [the hurricane], for me, I didn’t expect it to be so dangerous like that.

“I wasn’t even really going anymore. I packed, but was still planning to stay, but my mom told me to bring the kids.”

Pamela Martin, a mother of six, was just a few cots over from Hannah.

She also lives in Salina Point in an old house she inherited from her great grandmother a few years ago.

Martin said she is grateful that she and her children were evacuated to New Providence and are more safe than they may have been if they had stayed home.

But she left a part of her in Acklins that she fears may be blown or washed away forever.

“My mother passed [away] just a couple of months ago,” Martin said.

“That was hard for me. I’m trying to get over it.”

She said, “In her house [are] memories. I left [those] behind. Looking at the clothes and even just holding the clothes she wore, [I] picture her in the front of [me].

“It feels like she’s still here when we see her things around, but we know she’s gone.

“It’s a lot. I’m going through a lot, but I still give God thanks.”

Clementina Lightbourne, 75, and her daughter were also at the shelter.

They live in a small house in Mayaguana.

They, too, have memories of Joaquin.

“Not a shingle came off of it,” said Lightbourne, holding onto the wheelchair that her daughter sat in.

“The wind was blowing very hard and I didn’t even know a hurricane was coming.

“They said it was supposed to pass by Ragged Island. But that evening, I saw the wind blowing and I told my sister the weather was coming around. I was frightened.

“I prayed and I asked God to keep the house and not to let anything happen to us. Not one shingle came off.”

Lightbourne said she trusts that He will keep her home safe.

But she said she is wise enough to know when to leave it all behind and run.

Enrique Lightbourne, 16, an aspiring pilot and professional basketball player, who lives in Acklins, sat on a cot with his two siblings, Marcus, 15, and Gia, 10.

Their grandmother and mother looked over as they told The Guardian their fears surrounding Irma.

“I just want my home and school and [friends] to be safe,” Enrique said.

“I am a bit worried. At first, I felt kind of uncomfortable being here, but I’m starting to feel comfortable now. I just wish there is no damage or stuff like that.

“I hope the basketball court is still there, too.”

Marcus said he is worried about the three people who stayed in their community.

He is grateful that the government brought him and his family to New Providence.

Gia misses her dolls, her friends and her teacher.

Dozens were at the center yesterday trying to get settled.

New Providence Community Centre was the first shelter to open its doors to evacuees.

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development Cora Bain Colebrooke said 136 people were staying there as of yesterday evening.

The shelter is being manned by 10 social workers and other volunteers.

Bain Colebrooke also said medical personnel were on duty to ensure the wellbeing of all evacuees.

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