Said to be heartbroken by the battering that several islands in the Bahamas received from Hurricane Dorian, superstar Rihanna has promised financial support, as a picture began to emerge of death and destruction over a wide swathe of the archipelagic nation.
Through her charity, the Clara Lionel Foundation, the Grammy award-winning songstress has pledged assistance to the Bahamas, whose second-largest city Freeport on Grand Bahama was savaged, a day after the hurricane devastated Marsh Harbour in the Abaco islands.
The northwestern Bahamas was pummeled by 185 miles-per-hour winds and the Category 5 hurricane dumped over 20 feet of rain when the storm struck the Abaco islands on Sunday night.
The death toll climbed to seven, after two of the victims died after being airlifted from Abaco to the capital Nassau, 147 kilometres to the south, for urgent medical attention, said Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis tonight, adding that he expects the number of deaths to climb even further.
“I want to inform the Bahamian population that we can expect more deaths to be recorded. This is just preliminary information,” he said.
Asked about reports of death on Grand Bahama, Minnis said he has heard some reports, but could not verify them.
Rihanna said: “It truly breaks my heart to see the complete devastation that Hurricane Dorian is having on The Bahamas. You are in our prayers.”
The 31-year-old’s foundation also came to the assistance of Puerto Rico when it was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
In a separate development, the Barbados Defence Force is also readying its efforts to assist The Bahamas.
Chief of Staff Colonel Glyne Grannum has revealed that while the BDF is not yet ready to start warehousing relief supplies, it has begun compiling a catalogue of the items it may be asked to ship, using three of its largest vessels.
He said by carefully documenting and quantifying the supplies, the BDF, through the Barbados Coast Guard, would be able to plan for the most efficient method of moving the supplies, given the extent of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian and the distance between Barbados and The Bahamas.
The Defence Force is asking individuals, businesses and groups who are interested in donating to the cause to contact them at www.bdfbarbados.com/help-bahamas, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 536-2500.
The latest pledges have come 24 hours after Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that once the all-clear was given Barbados would be urgently assisting its sister CARICOM nation.
“The people of the Bahamas can rest assured that they are in our prayers, and that our resources, limited though they may be, will be deployed to help them through this most difficult time,” the Prime Minister said yesterday.
With Dorian finally moving away from the Bahamas after more than 48 hours since it made landfall in Elbow Cay, Abaco, Minnis appealed to the nation to unite with a “singular focus on helping our brothers and sisters in need”.
Minnis joined Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis, along with other government officials and US Charge d’Affaires Stephanie Bowers, in a reconnaissance flight over the Abaco islands aboard a US Coast Guard aircraft, while a tropical storm warning remained in effect over the area.
Addressing the nation from the National Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMA) headquarters in the capital Nassau on his return, Dr Minnis reported severe flooding and “severe damage to homes, businesses, other buildings and infrastructure” in Abaco.
He added: “The international airport in Abaco is underwater. The runway is completely flooded. The area around the airport now looks like a lake.”
He estimated that 60 per cent of the homes in Marsh Harbour, the largest settlement in Abaco, have been damaged or destroyed.
Mudd island, home to a significant enclave of Haitian immigrants, “as we know has been completely destroyed or decimated”, he said.
Elsewhere in the seven island municipalities that make up Abaco, the Treasure Cay Airport runway is still functional but the road between the main roadway and the airport is underwater, and Cooper’s Town also suffered some damage, he said.
“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national [crises] in our country’s history,” Minnis said, adding that the government would use all of its resources to help the stricken islands.
“No effort or resources will be held back,” he said.
In the meantime, he urged Bahamians to pray.
Dr Minnis also called on people who have not been displaced to open their homes to friends and family who are in need when the weather permits and transport resumes.
The Bahamian Prime Minister said: “As Bahamians, we must unite with the singular focus of helping our brothers and sisters in need.
“We will provide information as to where and how individuals, families and corporate citizens can donate resources and funds to assist those in need.” (RB)