Bahamians feeling abandoned by government
The water began to rise and creep under the door. Drywall from the roof cracked and poured around them. The family retreated into a hallway, the only area with a full roof still protecting them from the storm, while Leyland Laing prayed that they would make it out alive.
On Sept. 7, Hurricane Dorian left its mark on Grand Bahama Island, leaving the eastern end of the island completely flattened a month later with hundreds of people still missing.
Laing is a born and raised Bahamian and an employee of the Deputy Prime Minister. Four weeks after Dorian hit, he found himself alive but hungry. He searched through supplies brought by relief efforts for food and water.
Though residents are thankful for relief organizations, many cannot help but wonder what their government is doing to restore the Bahamas.
“It may not be as fast as we would like it, but we understand it is a disaster and it is over two islands,” Laing said. “This is the first storm we feel like the goods and supplies are actually getting to the people. We’ve never had a whole truck-load of supplies come out.”
The supplies are not from the Bahamian government. They are from the relief organization Bahamas Relief Cruise and USAID. The Bahamian government claims its presence is still strong in these communities.
The Deputy Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Minister of Finance and parliament member for East Grand Bahama, Peter Turnquest said that he’s been focusing on getting the country back on track. Along with his own personal efforts, he claims the government is doing as much as it can.
“We are focused on the rebuilding effort now as we transition from emergency relief efforts so that we get people back into their homes and communities as fast as possible. That’s what is most important— to ensure that people don’t feel that sense of hopelessness,” Turnquest said. "Our efforts are towards reconstruction in infrastructure as well as private dwellings so that people can regain some sense of normalcy.”
It has been a full month after Dorian hit, and Grand Bahama Island is still in shambles despite the prime minister’s claim. There has been minimal clean-up and the first Search and Rescue team was dispatched an entire month after the storm hit, according to Michael Hadsell, the director of the K-9 Search and Rescue Team. Though Laing supports the government’s efforts, many other locals do not.
“[The government is] unorganized. You never know where their relief supplies are going to be, it’s all word-of-mouth. Maybe it’ll be here for this day, or there. But then it’s not,” Jason Roberts, father of two and resident to Grand Bahama, said. “A lot of people wanted to come in right away but they couldn’t. There was a lot of red-tape and that’s their fault”
Roberts called the Bahamian government unreliable and explained that the government restricted relief supplies initially after Dorian.
While debris covers the island, forest fires destroy the wildlife and families search for loved ones. Some residents find it difficult to believe that the Bahamian government is actively helping “people regain some sense of normalcy.”
By Michaela Payne, Kristen Franz