By NAN STAFF WRITER
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Oct. 4, 2019: For Grand Bahama resident, small business owner and hurricane survivor, Reudon Knowles, the days since Hurricane Dorian hit has seemed to drag on forever.
Even though it’s been only a month since Hurricane Dorian delivered a devastating blow to the northern Bahamas islands, life as Knowles and most residents knew it, is now forever changed.
While the task has turned to clean-up and rebuilding efforts, most who have chosen to remain on the island are still in survival mode.
That means power is largely from generators; water is out of tanks and bottles and hot meals daily is a luxury. There are now only two grocery stores open on the island and one building supply company, making securing basic items and building supplies an arduous task.
Many are still in desperate need of basic supplies of food and water, but of clothing, clean up items, building supplies and generators.
Many residents are now battling mold in homes that were flooded with water up to the rafters, as the storm surge hit and moved as far as four miles inland.
“I compare what I experienced and heard to a F3/F4 tornado which usually has equivalent winds. Places that never flooded before, flooded in this perfect storm,” Knowles, an air-traffic controller at the island’s airport told News Americas. “The airport itself had 25 foot of water. Certain factors contributed to the magnitude of this devastating hurricane. The effects of global warming – rising ocean levels along with the new moon and high tides during those days the hurricane was upon us pushed an unprecedented amount of sea water onshore. The results were mass casualties because the inhabitants were caught by surprise at the speed at which the water was rising.”
Knowles said that over two thousand persons of those that did not evacuate the islands and could not receive help in time, remain missing or perished along with pets and children. Some even got trapped in buildings used as hurricane shelters where the building collapsed under the pressure of water and winds, he said while some will never be found, being assumed swept out to sea by currents when the flood water rose.
“It is disturbing to think about friends and persons frequently seen in the community that perished, some who even were helping others and family to safety,” he added. “By no means are survivors of Hurricane Dorian short on harrowing stories of survival, and none of the stories are exaggerated regardless of how unbelievable they many seem.”
Thousands are now displaced, and hundreds left unemployed while many see the government’s response through its NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency,) as slow, pointing to examples where residents have had to stand outside in long lines for hours to secure a half a case of water as a prime example of the sloth-like response.
“We are left with salty ground water supply that was previously fresh drinking water,” said Knowles. “Thousands are still without electricity and potable water and have no access or estimation of when supply will be restored.”
Temporary housing is also an issue with so many homeless from the storm but neighbors helping neighbors have become the order of the day.
Even as many struggle to survive and cope, the mental and emotional impact has yet to be addressed Knowles says, relating stories of many who lost loved ones, including their entire families who were sheltering in a church that collapsed and killed 25 people.
“The PTSD impact of this has not even yet been accessed or addressed,” said Knowles, who said many will need counseling to move forward.
Knowles says most of the immediate help to residents have come from private individuals and organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, the Rotary Club Of Freeport/Lucaya, local shipping/import companies and religious organizations, who rushed into action as soon as the storm cleared, handing out food and water.
But for now, the focus is on the immediate needs.
“We lack of fresh drinking water, water filters, food, generators, building supplies, access to mental health professionals, temporary housing and financial contributions for items that can be bought locally and the elderly and young lack the essentials that were most likely just bought prior to the end of August,” said Knowles, adding that ninety percent of local businesses were affected and are still closed due to loss and insufficient financial capability to reopen quickly.
Knowles is urging donation to organizations like the Rotary Club of Grand Bahama and The Robbins Fund and inviting innovative businesses “to fill major voids in the local economy now because of the apparent permanent closure of some businesses.”
“We can make a difference and help make it better in The Bahamas,” he added. “Time for us to rebuild better and stronger.”