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Our Hearts Go Out to Our Friends in Abaco
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Posted by:Sep 28th 2004, 02:23:34 pm
ColinWith each new hurricane that has pummeled the Caribbean and the Bahamas--and the United States--I have grown more and more frustrated with the unbalanced coverage by American newspapers, radio and TV.

While the networks and papers run story after story on what has largely been relatively minor damage to the US (as a survivor of Andrew my heart goes out to anyone who has suffered) places like Haiti and Grenada and the Bahamas have been paid little attention though they have suffered greater damage and loss of life than has the U.S., and have far fewer resources to rebuild.

Now, as a reporter, I know we cover our home market first. But for the Miami Herald, the Sentinel and the Post the Bahamas is the home market.

My colleagues there and at the electronic media must raise their heads out of the sand and remember the glorious islands they love to visit for vacation....
Posted by:Sep 27th 2004, 01:47:38 pm
Fig Tree News TeamAbaco devastated

Hurricane Jeanne was like a "freight train" passing through

By TAMARA McKENZIE, Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter

MARSH HARBOUR, Abaco - Hurricane Jeanne did not leave one stone unturned, as she unleashed her fury on the island of Abaco on Saturday.

Hit severely by Hurricane Frances a little over three weeks ago, many residents were of the opinion that Jeanne served a far greater blow to the infrastructure and economy of the island, which stood in a mode of recovery and reconstruction just last week.

Clothes airing out on roof-tops, boats sitting on the roadside, collapsed roofs in some areas, and a sad expression on the faces of many, all bore evidence of the fury unleashed in Abaco by the Category Two hurricane, which packed winds of 115 miles per hour, accompanied by blinding rainfall.

When The Guardian arrived in Abaco on Sunday morning, the damage reports heard via radio were incomparable to what was witnessed. There was no electricity or running water on the island, and cell and land phone services were inoperable. The main airport terminal was flooded, and cars eased through the water.

In the capital of Marsh Harbour, most businesses on the waterfront, such as Snappas, Mangoes, and Conch Inn, were severely damaged. Every dock at the Harbour View Marina was demolished. Several boats and yachts also sustained major damage, as heavy winds accompanied by pounding waves crashed them into seashore businesses and the roadside.

Bob Cornea, co-owner of the Harbour View Marina and Director of Camp Abaco, described Hurricane Jeanne as a "freight train" passing through the island. "We had wind and water and we could see the water coming up the Harbour. It was far worse than Frances, and the damage is comparable to Hurricane Floyd [in 1999]," he said. Mr Cornea estimated it would cost some $400,000 to rebuild one docking facility, and the total damage was in the millions of dollars.

Mrs Cornea, who stood by her husband's side, expressed that six months is not enough to bring in building material duty free from the United States. She said it would probably take her some six months to determine all that she needs to effect repairs.

Glen Kotera, a boater visiting Abaco from Oregon, said his Catamaran was beached onto the roadside during the eye of Hurricane Jeanne and was blown back into the water once the eye passed. He described his entire experience as "terrifying."

"I was lying in my bed and the bed was just vibrating. The walls were shaking and it was pretty scary. I don't want to experience it again," Mr Kotera said. He added, however, that despite Hurricane Jeanne, he loves The Bahamas and would return.

In Dundas Town, more boats said to be owned by tourists were found strewn alongside the road, and the entire floor of the Seashore Seafood Meat Mart had caved in.

However, the core of devastation lay in the area of Marsh Harbour known as "The Mud," which is inhabited mostly by Haitians and Haitian-Bahamians. The entire village was surrounded by water, and the press had to gain access by climbing a ladder onto a floating, motorless speedboat, and then jumping off onto dry land. Some residents of the congested village stood outside their damaged make-shift wooden houses with shocked expressions. Others placed the salvageable contents of their dwellings on the outside to air-dry, while young children, seemingly oblivious of the devastation, played in puddles of water.

Anatis Jean Jacques, a resident of The Mud for the past 15 months, said after the passage of Hurricane Jeanne, he was only left with the clothes on his back. He recalled he did not leave his home to seek refuge in another area until around 3a.m. on Saturday morning when he heard the fierce wind blowing.

"I said I can't stay inside the house and a quarter to four, I went up to Pigeon Pea [another Haitian village], but around 6:30a.m. the people said the water was coming through The Mud," Mr Jacques said. He added that upon re-visiting his home on Sunday following the hurricane, the water was some six feet high and he did not have a chance to save any of his belongings.

'I ain't gat no clothes. I ain't gat nothing, only what you see on me now. When you lost everything, you don't know when you will have them back. This is not easy," said Mr Jacques.

Another Mud resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he has lived in The Mud for the past 27 years, but whenever a Hurricane hits, residents of the area are "looked down" upon. He said the government must realise that Bahamians also occupy the area and should lend them assistance.

"We have been hit about 50 times and nobody helps us. It's cheaper we just go somewhere else. Either to Haiti or somewhere. We have many people trying to buy land and move out of here, because nobody wants to be in this [situation]," said the Mud resident who said his parents were Haitian, but he was born in The Bahamas and also holds a Bahamian passport.

Also visiting the main shelter at the Central Abaco Primary School, The Guardian was told that approximately 600 people sought refuge at that location. At the time, a number had left to inspect their houses, but those storm-weary residents remaining on the compound seemed calm.

Ms Ella Lubin, a shelter resident, said she packed up her four children and headed to the shelter on Friday afternoon, realising her home in The Mud was unsafe. She said upon assessing her home on Sunday after the devastation, it was entirely flooded. "All my clothes are wet. My bed was wet and my TV," she said, adding that although she preferred to be at home, a shelter was much safer.

Chairman of the shelter sub-committee in Central Abaco, Sarone Kennedy, said the shelter would remain open until the last occupant finds a place to stay.

Chief Councilor of Central Abaco, Cay Mills, said Hurricane Jeanne left more damage than Hurricane Frances, as the entire waterfront of Dundas Town and Marsh Harbour was completely rearranged. He estimated that the Marsh Harbour community would not regain its normalcy for another two years. It was also reported that there was massive damage to the customs warehouse and trailers on the government dock were flung some 500 feet away.

Mr Mills also expressed that since Hurricane Frances, not much attention was given to Abaco. He claimed the assessment team that visited the island, arrived in their "flashy" cars and never visited a home to view damage.

"They just drove. They came on their big flashy planes and they did not even go to the people. I am the Chief Councilor here, but nobody tells me anything. They come and do their own thing, as if I am not a part of the system, but I am elected just like them, whether they believe it or not," Mr Mills said.

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