Debris Clearance Needed In Bahamas Before Post-Dorian Rebuilding Can Begin
More than a month after Hurricane Dorian ripped through Mash Harbour in the Bahamas, the debris —smashed pieces of wood that used to be houses, cars flipped on their sides and boats washed up in people’s yards — is strewn everywhere.
Dominique Norris drove around slowly, taking in the damage and pointing to the shells of what remained of her neighbors’ homes and businesses.
“That roof over there is completely blown off,” she said. “It’s in the yard over there.”
The power plant didn’t fare any better.
“One building is completely missing. It probably ended up in the back of that building somewhere,” said Norris.
Norris returned to Abacos to check on her home and some family who stayed behind. She’s one of the thousands of Abaconians who left after the storm for other parts of the Bahamas or to the U.S. For the few who remain, they’re trying to eek out a living and figure out their next steps while the Bahamian government rolls out its debris clearing and reconstruction plan.
Norris, who works for an international shipping company, is staying at an Airbnb in Hollywood, Florida, while she files her insurance claim to fix her home. During the storm, pieces of her roof caved in.
“The whole time we were in a closet,” Norris said. “All of my Sheetrock started to fall in different parts of the house.”
She pointed to all her neighbors' homes: the police officer, the older married couple, the newlyweds, they all left.
“There’s nothing to be here for,” she said. “What would they do if they stayed? Where persons worked was destroyed.”
And there’s no electricity, safe drinking water is hard to come by and the massive cleanup of cubic yards of debris is still in its nascent stages.
The Bahamian Department of Environmental Health recently announced it will start getting rid of the debris in residential neighborhoods. The government is also working to get the Port at Marsh Harbour fully functioning again.
Norris' brother, Stefan Bristol, was also in Abacos checking on another family member’s home.
Bristol works in construction and he says business is going to be slow until the debris is removed.
"Right now you basically can’t do no construction with all the debris,” he said. Bristol is staying in Freeport; he’s found work repairing roofs in areas that were not as hard hit as Abacos
Around the island, people who did stay behind are concerned about making ends meet with most businesses still shuttered or completely destroyed.
Kesnel Ebren, a Haitian migrant who normally works as a day laborer, said all of those jobs are gone now. He’s relying on free food and water from some of the aid groups that have set up at the port.
“We have no drinking water, no food. If they didn’t give out some thing for free I’d have nothing.”
Ebren’s home was completely destroyed in the hurricane. He’s staying in a neighbor’s house that has walls, but no roof.
To figure out a game plan for the cleanup and eventually rebuilding of Marsh Harbour, the Bahamian government is bringing in 300 government employees and other workers to the island.
With most of the housing and hotels destroyed, the government will provide 100 recreational vehicles to house them.
The goal is to start getting business back up and running on Marsh Harbour and for people who made up the community to return.
There are small signs that some businesses are starting to reopen.
Arkata Gibson recently got hired at a hardware store that’s cleaning up to reopen.
Gibson, a truck driver, said his last employer had a lot of equipment damaged from the hurricane so he got temporarily laid off.
“He’s probably in Miami right now looking for all the equipment but for now he just get me this job,” Gibson said.
While his old job regroups, his boss helped set him up with this new one in Abacos. Gibson said Marsh Harbour has a long way to go before things are back to normal.
“Mostly all you can do is clean up right now,” he said.