Lack of warning before Bahamas tornado under probe

FREEPORT, Bahamas, March 31, 2010 – An investigation is to be launched into why meteorological officials in the Bahamas did not issue any warning prior to a tornado that hit the island of Grand Bahama on Monday and left three people dead.

Three employees of the Freeport Container Port were killed when the tornado hit after 11 am, destroying six cranes at the facility. Several other workers were also injured and there were reports of damage to property all across the island.

The tornado was caused by three lines of showers and thunderstorms moving across the island.

Deputy Director of the Department of Meteorology Basil Dean told the Nassau Guardian newspaper that he had asked director Arthur Rolle for a probe into the failure to provide residents with notice before the tornado struck.

“From my perspective it should have been issued earlier…My report has already been written and that has been sent on to the director for whatever actions need to be taken,” Dean told the newspaper.

The Freeport Weather Service in Grand Bahama has been out of service since late last year, but the Department of Meteorology on the mainland is responsible for issuing warnings for all of the Bahamas.

The opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has also expressed concern about the absence of an early warning. The party issued a statement in which it posed several questions, including whether the government would give an immediate undertaking to activate a fully operational met office on the island.

Meantime, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, and head of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Commander Stephen Russell visited the island to assess the damage caused by the tornado. No final estimate of the destruction has been given so far.