Bahamas: Shelter and clean water priorities in wake of “catastrophic” hurricane

Hurricane Dorian has caused extensive damage across the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama in the Bahamas, according to rapid initial assessments from authorities and Red Cross officials on the ground.

According to these reports, Dorian’s ferocious category 5 winds and rains have damaged houses and other buildings, leaving many people without adequate shelter. As many as 13,000 houses may have been severely damaged or destroyed. On the island of Abaco, extensive flooding is believed to have contaminated wells with salt water, creating an urgent need for clean water.

Sune Bulow, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Emergency Operation Centre in Geneva, said:

“We don’t yet have a complete picture of what has happened. But it is clear that Hurricane Dorian has had a catastrophic impact. We anticipate extensive shelter needs, alongside the need for short-term economic support, as well as for clean water and health assistance.”

IFRC has this morning released 250,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to bolster the first wave of the Bahamas Red Cross’ response. About 500 families will receive emergency shelter assistance, including tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, and solar cell phone chargers.

The same families will also be provided with unconditional cash grants, which will allow them to repair and replace what they have lost, while also helping to bolster local economies in the short term. IFRC deployed a disaster management coordinator to Bahamas ahead of Dorian’s landfall in anticipation of emergency response needs.

Hurricane Dorian is now heading towards Florida and the US’ eastern coast. According to the American Red Cross, 19 million people live in areas that could be impacted by the storm, with as many as 50,000 people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina potentially in need of emergency shelter depending on its impact.

Hundreds of trained Red Cross volunteers, emergency response vehicles and more than 30 truck loads of relief supplies are being mobilized to help people living in the path of Hurricane Dorian.