Amid crush of Dorian refugees, Bahamas capital 'not built to handle this,' official says

Jim Wyss, Miami Herald on

Published in Weather News

NASSAU, Bahamas -- When Hurricane Dorian tore through the Bahamas last week it largely spared the country's capital. But now Nassau is feeling the backlash of the killer storm, as it scrambles to house thousands of evacuees who have been left destitute and homeless.

The government says more than 4,800 people have been evacuated from hard-hit regions of the Bahamas and more are arriving in Nassau daily.

The Kendal G.L. Isaacs Gymnasium in Nassau is the country's largest shelter, home to about 1,500 evacuees, and it, like New Providence, the island of which the capital is a part, is reaching maximum capacity, said Carlos Reid, the spokesman for the shelter.

Nassau "is not built to handle this influx at this particular time," Reid said, as about a hundred people were standing in line under a blazing sun, waiting to be checked into the complex. "We don't have enough schools to do it; our hospitals and healthcare system can't handle it. Our goal has to be how we can help these people and then get these people back to their islands so they can rebuild it."

Asked how long the government was prepared to house the Dorian evacuees, Reid said it was impossible to know.

"We have never seen anything of this magnitude," he said. "We're going to have to take it one day at a time."


Dorian roared through the archipelago last week as a deadly Category 5 hurricane, packing winds of 185 miles per hour. Then it sat for more than 40 hours over parts of the northern Bahamas, chewing up swaths of the tourist paradise and delivering what Prime Minister Huber Minnis is calling "generational damage" to Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. The death toll now stands at 45, but is expected to rise, with search-and-rescue operations still under way.

Nassau, home to about 270,000 people, was already seen as crowded and overwhelmed by the island's standards. And there are fears that an influx of evacuees -- some of them undocumented Haitians -- might raise the pressure.

Reid said that 95% of those checking into the sports complex were Haitian nationals.

While the press was kept out of the shelter, evacuees said they were given cots, sheets, food and water and were being treated well.


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