Reports Say Hurricane Dorian Left Extensive, Unprecedented Damage In The Bahamas
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Let's turn now to the Bahamas and specifically the northern parts of the Bahamas, where reports are coming in of extensive, unprecedented damage. We have been trying to get through all day with no luck. Phone service is mostly out. The Red Cross is there on the ground, and I want to bring in Steve McAndrew of the Red Cross. He is monitoring the situation from Panama.
Mr. McAndrew, welcome.
STEVE MCANDREW: Thank you for having me.
KELLY: Now, have you been able to get through to your teams in the Bahamas? What are you hearing?
MCANDREW: We have sporadic communications, but we did pre-deploy teams into the affected areas.
KELLY: And what are you hearing?
MCANDREW: What we're hearing is that it's a very difficult situation. There is extensive damage and extensive flooding, especially in - most of the areas close to the coast have been almost completely underwater, and many of the shelters that we have been working in and preparing - they have also started to be underwater and be flooded. So people are moving out of some of the temporary shelters, which we had in schools and churches, and are moving into some of the biggest or tallest and strongest buildings on the island. Especially in Marsh Harbor, we have reports of people moving into the government buildings because the flood waters are so high.
KELLY: You mentioned that you'd had volunteers in place beforehand to accomplish all kinds of tasks, getting relief supplies there so that they would already be there before the storm hit - everything from tarps to hand-crank cell phone chargers. Are those supplies, as far as you can tell, getting to the people who need them?
MCANDREW: So what we have information on so far is that some of the Red Cross warehouses have also now been flooded, so there's a good chance that we may have lost or are losing some of our prepositioned emergency supplies.
KELLY: And what is in particularly short supply now?
MCANDREW: Food, water, shelter, basic health care and sanitation - our challenge now is really to get access into these areas so we can get to work.
KELLY: Right. Because we're seeing reports of roads washed out, of power out, does that square with what you were hearing?
MCANDREW: Yes, definitely. We're having all sorts of trouble with access. And we have a hundred volunteers on both of these islands in the Bahamas. We have two Bahamas Red Cross branches in Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, but those volunteers themselves are still taking care of their own shelter and their families and not able to actually get out so quickly and start implementing our response activities. We have supplies on the ground. We have more supplies in Panama. We are loading a flight as we speak here. We'll be sending more relief supplies. And I have international experts already starting to fly into Nassau.
KELLY: The capital, which was not hit as hard...
MCANDREW: It's not hit as hard, but it's still affected. So we're getting some reports of - at least five to six shelters have been opened on New Providence, and there is flooding. So it has not been as hard, but it is affected, so we're seeing damage there also. And we're just getting to work in all these different places.
KELLY: And you've said a few times you're starting to get reports. These are phone calls?
MCANDREW: We have a couple sat phones, but batteries have died out over the last 24 hours. And there were some WhatsApp cell phone reports - yes, video cell phone reports - that have come in. But now it seems as if in the last four to six hours, we've had zero contact, and even in New Providence, where Nassau is, the communications are not good at this moment. Now, that can change. It can come back any minute now, and that's where we're at at the moment. Communications are very difficult.
KELLY: Mr. McAndrew, thank you.
MCANDREW: Thank you so much.
KELLY: Steve McAndrew, he is deputy regional director of the Red Cross for the Americas. He was speaking to us there via Skype from Panama.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.