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Ragged Islanders tell of Irma’s fury

  • The roof and upstairs portion of this structure rests at its side in Duncan Town, Ragged Island following the passage of Hurricane Irma. PHOTOS: TORRELL GLINTON

  • A home on Ragged Island which was completely destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

TRAVIS CARTWRIGHT-CARROLL
Guardian Senior Reporter
travis@nasguard.com

Published: Sep 12, 2017

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Amal Smith almost lost everything to Hurricane Irma when it swept over his tiny home on Ragged Island last week.

“I have a little. I have my life. I can make it back,” said Smith, who was surrounded by piles of wood, tarpaper and nails, the remains of someone’s roof, yesterday.

“I didn't want to leave my little island and I know if I went to Nassau it was going to be much worse.

“So I said I might as well ride it out here.”

Smith, 27, said he had to run into the storm after the home he was in started to fall apart.

“It was good in the beginning, but the last half was a nightmare,” he said.

“I hope to never see nothing like that again. There was debris flying, walls crumbling, ducking, and dodging. It was just crazy.

“I didn't stay in the same place. I had to run from my place. We were in the first place doing good and then something slammed the side of the wall. The wall started crumbling.

“We had to make the decision to get out the building as quick as possible. We ran out into the storm into the next building.

“We held up well there. It was a little wet but we made it through. My place? The wall crumbled and most of the roof is gone. It's still standing, but it’s just one wall.”

Ragged Island bore the brunt of Irma, a Category 5 hurricane when it moved over The Bahamas last week.

There is heartbreak, loss and devastation on the island.

There is no running water, electricity or telecommunications and food is in limited supply.

Eighteen residents stayed behind and rode out the storm. The island has around 60 residents.

Power lines are strewn across the roads, as are the remains of roofs, front doors, glass and other debris that once made up someone’s home.

The government clinic, school and nearly every building either lost its roof or suffered some form of major damage.

The stench of dead goats and other animals permeated the tiny community of Duncan Town. Ragged Island is only nine square miles and Duncan Town, its only settlement, is no bigger than Pinewood Gardens.

One home only has the foundation left, with the remains of the walls toppled over a blown over refrigerator.

A road in the community is blocked by debris, presumably another roof and downed lampposts that snapped in two.

Smith said the devastation left him traumatized.

“When I saw what had happened I felt destroyed,” he said.

“I felt heartbroken. The only thing I can do is start back from scratch and hope something happens.”

Marjorie Wallace, who left the island ahead of Irma, said yesterday that she spent nearly $1,200 to return on a private charter.

“I'm lost for words,” she said when she saw her home.

Wallace’s home of 35 years was reduced to a pile of wooden planks, a wet sofa, overturned refrigerator and blocks of cement.

Only the foundation is left.

“This is it here,” she said, pointing to the rubble. “That's what's left of it.

“Had I been here I could have been hurt. I'm lost for words when it comes to what I see.

“We lost everything. We don't have anywhere to stay.”

Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper embraced Wallace in a teary hug after she spoke with The Nassau Guardian.

Wallace didn’t lose everything though.

Her three kittens survived the storm and seemed disinterested in the visitors flocking to the foundation of what was once their home.

Wallace put down a bowl of food and water for the kittens next to what was once her roof.

Evan Lockhart said he rode out the storm in a hurricane shelter.

“It was hard,” he said, sitting outside and looking at the rubble.

“It was rough. I've never experienced anything like that in my 68 years.

“That building sounded like it was on a train track.”

Lockhart said there isn't much left on Ragged Island.

“I will battle it out,” he said.

Terrance Wallace said his home suffered damage to its roof, windows and door. He said he hunkered down and rode out the storm in his home.

Asked why he didn’t leave, Wallace said, “I born here. If you run where will you run?”

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday urged the remaining inhabitants of Ragged Island to evacuate as early as today.

Minnis, members of his Cabinet, members of the opposition, officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the media visited Ragged Island, Acklins and Crooked Island yesterday.

The prime minister said he has never seen devastation like what he saw on Ragged Island.

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