Bahamas Trying to Cope with Storing the Dead and Treating the Injured post-Hurricane Dorian; Health Minister Speaks of Crisis

Rescue workers recover the body of a victim of Hurricane Dorian yesterday in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. (Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

NASSAU, The Bahamas, Friday September 6, 2019 – More morticians are being flown into the hurricane-hit Abaco and Grand Bahama as the death toll rises, and additional doctors and treatment facilities are being flown in for the scores of people who sustained serious injuries when Hurricane Dorian slammed into the northern Bahamas at the beginning of the week.

At least 30 people are now reported to have died.

Yesterday, when he said the death toll had risen to 23, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands reported that additional morticians and refrigerated coolers to store bodies were being transported to the two islands as they were “running out of cooler capacity”. He said morticians were also being flown in to embalm the remains that authorities have limited capacity to accommodate.

“Make no bones about it, the numbers will be far higher than 23,” he said on local radio station Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. “It is going to be significantly higher than that. It’s just a matter of retrieving those bodies, making sure we understand how they died. It seems like we are splitting hairs, but not everyone who died, died in the storm.”

When asked to estimate the number of fatalities from Hurricane Dorian, the Health Minister declined to hazard a guess, but said: “I believe the number will be staggering.”

Also expected to rise is the number of injured.

Speaking on the radio show, Minister Sands said that stood at 80 and the government did not have the capacity to deal with that “health crisis”.

The World Health Organization and others have therefore been asked for help.

“We will have three additional mini hospitals brought to both Abaco and Grand Bahama,” he said, adding that 50 more doctors would be flown in to provide acute, long-term and psychological care.

Additionally, he said, the University of Miami has donated US$9 million worth of medical supplies.

The US Coast Guard said it had rescued 201 residents as of yesterday.

“Our emergent priority is to get the critically wounded out and help the government of the Bahamas get the infrastructure back up so it’s safe, sanitary and liveable – at least on a temporary basis – for those folks,” said Captain James Passarelli of the US Coast Guard.

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