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Breaking News:

Bahamas avoids worst of storm

Published: Sep 11, 2017

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Hurricane Irma was one of the most powerful tropical systems ever recorded. It stayed at its peak maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour for a record 37 hours.

It hit the Leeward Islands last week, killing at least 24 people. The islands of Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Martin and St. Thomas are particularly devastated.

Looting and lawlessness were reported Saturday by both French and Dutch authorities, which have territories in the hard-hit island chain. Extra troops were sent to restore order.

Early estimates suggest Irma caused billions of dollars worth of damage in the Caribbean, in addition to loss of life.

The storm entered The Bahamas at Category 5 strength. The eye passed close to or over Inagua, Ragged Island and southern Acklins. There is damage in these places, but the small populations, small economies and fact that there was an evacuation of the south limited the impact. According to the 2010 census, 72 people lived in Ragged Island; 565 in Acklins; 277 in Mayaguana; 913 in Inagua; and 330 in Crooked Island.

The government should be commended for leading the evacuation. With 1,200-plus exiting the sparsely populated region, fewer people were exposed to the life-threatening conditions Irma caused.

For those who lost property, the challenge of rebuilding is at hand. Government traditionally provides some assistance, but this is always a complicated issue.

Government cannot and should not rebuild or repair every home in every storm. As individuals and businesses were must take responsibility for our situations. If you invested in a property, you should insure it so that you could rely on insurance for assistance.

Government should step in during extreme conditions to provide emergency aid to those in need. Bahamians should not think of the government as the “rebuild my home agency”.

Then Prime Minister Perry Christie was wrong to make open-ended promises of restoration help after Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew. There are Bahamians still waiting for that help even though Christie is but a memory. The new prime minister should be measured with his pledges. Do what is reasonable and responsible. Help the poor and needy. Speak truthfully about the capacity of government.

Prayer did not save The Bahamas from Irma. Intervention from the divine did not turn the storm away. The Bahamas was lucky. If Irma had taken the extreme eastern route in the forecast cone it would have hit New Providence directly as a Category 5 storm. The consequence of that would have been catastrophic. There would have been loss of life and destruction of critical infrastructure.

Bahamians across the islands should continue to take storms seriously. Being prepared is the best thing to do to protect property and life. Do not think our country is blessed or supernaturally protected. We are a chain of islands in a hurricane zone at a time when climate change has made the waters warmer, fueling super-storms. Our major population centers are just as vulnerable as anywhere else in this part of the world to the threat. If they get hit directly we would face the same chaos our brothers and sisters in the Leeward Islands now face.

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