Wed | Sep 18, 2019

Silence marks Bahamas town after Dorian devastation

Published:Monday | September 9, 2019 | 12:19 AM
Destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen from the air, at Abaco Beach Resort in Marsh Harbor, Abaco Island, Bahamas, Saturday, September 7.
Destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen from the air, at Abaco Beach Resort in Marsh Harbor, Abaco Island, Bahamas, Saturday, September 7.

MARSH HARBOUR, Bahamas (AP):

The streets are filled with smashed cars, snapped power cables, shattered trees, and deep silence.

At the airport and dock, hundreds of people clamor for seats on airplanes and berths on ships arriving with aid and departing with people who lost their homes when deadly Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas.

Nearly a week after disaster roared in from the sea, the rest of Marsh Harbour on Abaco island felt empty on Saturday. A hot wind whistled through stands of decapitated pine trees and homes that collapsed during the most powerful hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas’ recorded history.

Rescue teams were still trying to reach some Bahamian communities isolated by floodwaters and debris after the disaster that killed at least 44 people, most of them on Abaco Island.

No official figures were available, but much of the population of Marsh Harbour, home to most of the roughly 20,000 residents of Abaco, seemed to have already left. Many were staying with relatives in the capital, Nassau, others with family in Florida and other parts of the United States.

In Marsh Harbour’s Murphy Town neighbourhood, on a hill overlooking the azure sea, Jackson Blatch and his son-in-law were already rebuilding. In a blazing midday sun, they stripped damaged shingles from Blatch’s roofs and tossed them into his truck, parked below the eaves of a home he built by hand.

Like a few other Abaco residents, Blatch is staying on an island pulverised by nature.

“Everybody says, ‘Leave.’ Leave and go where?” Blatch asked. “My plan is to rebuild this island. I have a lot to offer.”

Unlike almost every other home on Abaco, Blatch’s house had little damage. He is a builder who prides himself on quality work. When mixing concrete, he never skimps, always precisely blending the recommended amounts of cement, sand, and gravel for floors, columns, and ceilings.

When he poured his walls and floors, he laced them thick with rebar, constructing a powerful skeleton that resisted the storm.

Instead of using the manufacturer-provided clips on his hurricane shutters, he used long screws on as many as possible to fix the shutters tight to the window frame.

When Dorian hit, it only managed to rip away the shutters with store-bought clips, and a few sections of shingles, leaving some of the Blatch family’s possessions wet but the structure and furnishings intact.

So Blatch has power from a generator, drinking water, food, and the help of his son-in-law, 25-year-old Moses Monestine.

“I don’t have a mortgage. I don’t want to go to Nassau,” he said. “I don’t want to go to the United States. I don’t want to depend on anyone.”