Five months post-Hurricane Dorian, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis, Member of Parliament (MP) for Central Grand Bahama continues to emphasize the importance of rebuilding Abaco and Grand Bahama to be more resilient to stand up to potential oncoming storms.
Addressing reconstruction and recovery efforts on both islands, which were severely impacted due to the passing of Hurricane Dorian in early September 2019, recently – Monday, February 10 – Lewis stated that Dorian redefined the term “super storm.”
Packing sustained wind speeds over 160 mph and gusts of more than 220 mph, Dorian hovered over Grand Bahama for more than 30 hours, after devastating Abaco.
Many areas on the island were nearly destroyed by Dorian’s record level flooding, particularly in East Grand Bahama, including High Rock, McLean’s Town, Pelican Point, Sweeting’s Cay and Deep Water Cay. Other areas affected were Fortune Bay, Arden Forest, Heritage and Hudson Estates Subdivisions, Down Town and parts of Bahamia.
Residents in the affected communities lost their homes, vehicles, material possession and even loved ones. A significant amount of the local businesses was also severely impacted by the storm.
Hurricane Dorian is the strongest hurricane ever to hit The Bahamas and is the joint strongest to ever hit strike land in the Atlantic.
According to the International Red Cross, 45 percent of homes on Grand Bahama and the Abaco have been severely damaged and destroyed about 13,000 properties.
Lewis said that weather forecasts indicate that more of these super storms are likely to occur, which means that countries such as The Bahamas that can be affected should better prepare themselves.
“The Bahamas, I emphasize, must focus on resilient measures to meet the challenges ahead of us,” he said.
Minister Lewis added that along with recovery and restoration efforts, the government must review the building code, which may result in no-build zones most susceptible to flooding.
In November 2019, Lewis informed that subject to engineers’ report 3,637 households were compromised from the storm and the degree of damages ranged from totally destroyed, to minor damages. “It is our intention to be aggressive in enforcing our code.”
He expressed that creating and implementing a new building code would be pointless if it is not enforced properly and adhered to.
According to Minister Lewis, Dorian caused more than an estimated $3.4 billion in damages and the more that can be done to upholding stronger building codes, the more the chances of this reoccurring are reduced.
Back in late October 2019, Lewis initially spoke to this daily about reviewing old and current building codes. He stated that the island has a long way to go as Dorian’s affects may last for years to come.
“Dorian may have weakened some of our buildings, some of our marine life but it’s going to make us stronger,” he said.
He added that this experience will be a lesson in global partnership for the people. “I want to see a better built Bahamas.”
Lewis stated that the Category 5 storm has also taught the Bahamian people that they must be mindful of how they build.
He noted that with global warming and all the other environmental changes happening, Dorian may not be the last super storm and therefore, Bahamians must be better, stronger and learn how to come together as a global community.
According to Lewis, Dorian’s impact exemplified that we need to go back to doing some things the way our forefathers did. “When they elevated homes, that was for a specific reason. When they built away from the shoreline, they knew exactly what they were doing.”
Lewis was appointed to his current position late September 2019. He stated that restoring some sort of normalcy to Abaco, Grand Bahama and the Cays will not be an overnight fix but will require time and professional advice from people like local accountants.
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