Cruise line helps start rebuilding process in Bahamas after Dorian
Evacuees returning to island with supplies to start rebuild
Bahamians were evacuated to South Florida during Hurricane Dorian on the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line ship Grand Celebration, but they won't be staying here for an extended period of time.
Most of them have vowed to get building supplies so they can go back home and help rebuild the nation after the damage it suffered.
"We now go to our families to assist us and bring back stuff for our homes and just continue to build," said evacuee Ciara Curry.
Curry was one of the lucky ones.
On Friday in Freeport, she was one of hundreds of residents of Grand Bahama who waited for hours in the hot sun hoping to get on the Grand Celebration and get off the island.
Curry and her family made it.
"Our hats are off to the cruise line. Thank you so much," she said.
The ship granted 1,100 Bahamians free passage and was the first in port after Dorian, in the process bringing much-needed relief.
"Finally the door opened, and I felt the A/C and I said, 'Thank you Jesus,'" said evacuee Ceva Seymour.
Fellow evacuee Golda Rolle knew what the first thing she wanted to do was.
"Oh my God, to get a hot shower," she said. "That's the first thing I did."
The devastation on Grand Bahama is horrific, from the airport to an oil storage terminal that is leaking oil into the surrounding environment, potentially damaging local reefs and wildlife.
The worst damage is in the east.
"Everything from boats inside homes to power poles washed inside homes," said Diana Matty, West Palm Beach fire chief. "It was unbelievable."
Matty led a team of first responders into the most devastated part of the island. The main road was completely washed out.
"There's no storm surge code. and that's really what they experienced," Matty said. "Why there' s so much complete devastation is the storm surge."
There was 25 feet of storm surge in some parts.
Amanda Kelwin barely survived it, forced to ride out the storm in the attic for 36 hours with her family and dogs when the ocean came crashing into their home.
"When those winds start gushing and the waves keep coming, I was like: 'This is it. I'm going to die,'" Kelwin said.
The official death toll is expected to rise in Grand Bahama. Residents tell stories of seeing people being swept out to sea by the powerful storm surge. Many people are still missing.
"It's going to be a big task for their government to find out exactly where their people are," Matty said.
The need in Grand Bahama is overwhelming.
This was just the first of several relief missions Paradise Cruise Line intends to carry out. It costs thousands to carry out the effort for one day, and it can't bear the cost alone. An organization called missionresolve.org has stepped up to raise funds.
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