Lawyer relives search for family in Bahamas
A Bahamian-born lawyer has relived her desperate search for family members after a massive hurricane devastated parts of the island chain.
Simone Smith-Bean, the wife of former Progressive Labour Party leader Marc Bean, added yesterday that the Bahamas still needed help after being ravaged by Hurricane Dorian, the worst recorded hurricane to hit the Bahamas, in September.
She told Hamilton Rotary Club: “The very first few hours of the hurricane I spent looking for my family members in the Abaco Islands, who were later found holed up in a church.
“They, too, had to flee their homes and find their way to a better shelter during the hurricane.
“As Sunday rolled into Monday, I still was not able to locate some of my family members.”
She added: “The first thing that came to my mind was the great help that was going to be required, just as a result of the initial pictures of the devastation that was coming out of the Bahamas.”
Ms Smith-Bean talked about her trip to the Bahamas in the wake of the hurricane, for the first time, at a lunch meeting of Rotarians at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club.
She explained that Dorian grew from a Category 4 to a Category 5 hurricane just before it hit the island on September 1 and stayed over the country for two days.
Ms Smith-Bean said: “If you can, imagine a world where being caught in a vortex of 297km/h winds for two days. That’s what they had experienced on the island.
“There were bodies everywhere, from what we were told. Many women and children died because they could not keep themselves safe during the hurricane.
“The stories of those who made it are just as heartwrenching as you might imagine.”
Ms Smith-Bean said that she tracked friends and family over social media and shared location coordinates to the United States Coast Guard, who were part of the massive rescue effort.
She added that she and 100 other Bermuda residents with family ties to the Bahamas created the Bahamian Association of Bermuda.
They teamed up with the We Care Project, a disaster relief charity, to send almost 200 tonnes of emergency supplies to the Bahamas.
Ms Smith-Bean said that the last of the supplies arrived in the Bahamas last week, but more would be needed.
She explained: “This was the sixth devastation that has happened to them in the last seven years.
“You can imagine for an economy not to be in a position to rebuild and then hit again — that’s what we’re talking about as far as destruction is concerned.
“It’s very important for everyone to understand that the country is a very resilient country, but it has met its challenges.” Ms Smith-Bean said that the death toll from Dorian was still unknown, but is expected to be in the thousands.
She added that about 80 per cent of the infrastructure in the Abaco Islands had been destroyed and about 70,000 people had been displaced.
Ms Smith-Bean said: “We will need money in place in order to rebuild homes, rebuild schools, rebuild towns and make it habitable for persons to come back into Abaco and Grand Bahama and try and start their lives again.”
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