On Sept. 1, 2019, Hurricane Dorian struck the Abaco Islands in The Bahamas as a category 5 hurricane and a day later hit Grand Bahama Island at the same category. As of Sept. 9, the death toll was at least 50 and a combined 76,000 people were left homeless on Abaco Island and Grand Bahama Island, according to the United Nations.
Blaine Fisher, a professor in emergency and security studies in Tulane University's School of Professional Advancement, is available to speak about the United States’ role in the response to the disaster relief to the Bahamas and also offers a glance into the aftermath of a disaster.
“For the most part, the march to baseline is a charge led at the state and local level with federal support. City officials need to maintain constant communication with FEMA to request financial assistance. The immediate need after a hurricane is getting things that modern societies are addicted to up-and-running again — things like electricity and running water,” Fisher said.
Hurricane Dorian is the strongest hurricane in recorded history to hit the Bahamas. Considering that the Bahamas constitutes 700 islands spread over 10,000 miles of ocean, the search and rescue effort will be ongoing for a significant time. Even though most of these islands are uninhabited, they will still need to be surveyed for possible casualties.
“The first challenge is evacuating disaster victims to shelters once the storm is over. In the United States, FEMA offers relocation and housing assistance.
Internationally, managing displaced populations are not as clear-cut,” Fisher said. “The U.S. will provide shelters and many foreign relief organizations will do the same. Temporary camps are usually erected to house these individuals until a more permanent solution is made available. Relief funds and donations may be funneled through the Bahamian government to provide house trailers on a victim’s property once the debris has been cleared. It is a process of transitions. First, to the shelter, then to a temporary camp and, lastly, to a more permanent solution.”
“The total population of the Bahamas is approaching 400,000 people. The most important factor in providing aid to islands is access. Unfortunately, the main airport on Grand Bahama has been severely damaged and rendered inoperable. Luckily, the Bahamas is close enough to the U.S. that delivering aid via ocean travel is still a viable option.”