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The Bahamas: Hurricane Dorian Emergency Plan of Action Revision no. 2 (MDRBS003)

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Description of the disaster

On 1 September 2019, Hurricane Dorian hit Northern Bahamas with winds of up to 185 mph (298 km/h) reaching Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale and equalling the highest ever recorded at landfall. The storm battered Abaco Island and Grand Bahama for almost two days in what has been described as a stationary hurricane.

The Bahamas is comprised of 700 islands distributed over 100,000 square miles of ocean. Hurricane Dorian significantly impacted the north-western Bahamas islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama and the surrounding Cays. Hurricane Dorian made several historical records as the strongest Atlantic hurricane documented to directly impact a land mass since records began, tying it with the Labour Day Hurricane of 1935. Hurricane Dorian affected the north-western Bahamas islands for an approximate total of 68 hours, with the southern eyewall planted over Grand Bahama for about 30 hours.

On 2 September, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Bahamas issued a broad list of needed disaster relief items (including, among other, tents, cots, hygiene kits, potable/purified water, water bladders and containers, first aid items, chain saws, plastic tarpaulins, debris removal tools, blankets). The Ministry of Finance also issued a Declaration of Exigency which grants, for a period of 30 to 90 days, tax exemptions on the importation of disaster relief items, including medicine and medical supplies, building materials, tents, cots, bedding materials and mosquito nettings, electrical fixtures and materials, plumbing fixtures and materials, household furniture, furnishing and appliances, electrical generators, bottled water, clothing, food for personal consumption and personal hygiene products.

Abaco Islands are the most severely affected. Initial assessments of Abaco found widespread destruction, with thousands of houses levelled, telecommunications towers down, and water wells and roads damaged. Water, electricity, sanitation and shelter remain the priority needs for the population of Abaco. Satellite data suggests that in Central Abaco, destroyed buildings are concentrated in the area surrounding Marsh Harbour. In this area, the most ravaged are particularly The Pea and The Mudd, which are mainly inhabited by groups in situation of vulnerability, as well as the area of Scotland Cay. Varying degrees of damage were also registered in critical infrastructure in Abaco such as health centres. Marsh Harbour port as well as the airport.

In Grand Bahama, the central and eastern parts are the most impacted, with several homes damaged between Freeport and Deep-Water Cay. A damage assessment carried by the Department of Social Services in Grand Bahamas suggests that 75 per cent of houses analysed near Eight Mile Rock West End, Freeport and East End, were destroyed or suffered major damage. Oil tanks were also damaged.

According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), there were 777 sheltered people in 5 shelters in New Providence as of 28th of October. Some evacuees sought shelter with relatives and friends across The Bahamas.

The population affected by the disaster includes Bahamian citizens from Grand Bahama and Abaco and a large number of people of Haitian descent residing in The Bahamas. While some of this segment of the displaced population are regularised and reside under work permits, many are present in The Bahamas without immigration status, have missing documentation or could be stateless, making them particularly vulnerable in the aftermath of the Hurricane.

Moreover, a new tropical depression during the Hurricane Season could pose another threat to the islands of The Bahamas that were hit hard by Hurricane Dorian.