A month after Dorian, Bahamas struggles to deal with devastation

Dorian leaves $7 billion in damage; USAID increases aid to $33 million

MARSH HARBOUR, the Bahamas – The majority of Abaco Island residents left their flattened homes behind. Like people on other Bahamian islands, the 17,000 residents of Abaco and its tiny keys are dealing with demolished neighborhoods and grief. 

On Tuesday, Willie Odeous stood amid the rubble in Marsh Harbour, where the relief effort continues after Hurricane Dorian struck a month ago, leaving entire neighborhoods displaced. Only about 1,500 survivors of Dorian's 185 mph winds and 220 mph gusts -- which ripped roofs off like paper -- remain.  

Devastating storm surge of up to 23 feet submerged tiny coastal villages and swallowed loved ones. Odeous said his family is mourning the loss of his father, who attempted to get to a nearby Roman Catholic church in search of safety amid the storm's rampage. 

"I don't think he ever made it there," Odeous said, adding he still hasn't found his father's body.  

The 700-island archipelago reported the monstrous Category 5 storm left at least 60 dead and 608 missing. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, who set up a new reconstruction ministry to deal with the estimated $7 billion in damage, hasn't announced the final death toll. 

It could take years to recover. Haitian activists said more than 2,000 Haitian-Bahamian residents are among the displaced. Haitians make up about 20% of the population in the Bahamas. The undocumented migrants' children, who were born in the Bahamas, are stateless. 

Despite their need for aid, the threat of deportation remains. Fred R.M. Smith, a human rights lawyer, fought to prevent the destruction of the Mudd and Pigeon Peas, another migrant village in Marsh Harbour. And although the hurricane did what the government wanted, officials recently awarded contracts to clean up the areas.  

The displaced Haitian migrants' limbo is a challenge for Bahamian authorities who are offering them temporary shelter. In September, Smith told the New York Times he feared "the honeymoon of helping people is going to end very quickly."

President Donald Trump is not open to helping displaced Haitian migrants move to South Florida. Florida Democrats want the displaced Haitians to get temporary protected status for 18 months. 

"I don't want to allow people that weren't supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members, and some very, very bad drug dealers, so we are going to be very, very strong on that," Trump said Sept. 9. 

The Trump administration is providing $33 million in humanitarian assistance to the Bahamas through the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID Administrator Mark Green is touring the damaged areas and Tim Callaghan, the leader of the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, is preparing a report on the damage. 

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