Following the “terrible devastation” of parts of the northern Bahamas in the Caribbean caused by Hurricane Dorian, the United Nation’s relief chief, Mark Lowcock, travelled to the island nation on Wednesday September 4, to meet government leaders and help expedite a life-saving aid operation.
He tweeted: “Just met with PM @minnis_dr and had a thorough briefing on the Government-led response to #HurricaneDorian. Shelter, safe drinking water, food & medicine are urgently needed. The @UN stands ready to support the people of the Bahamas today and in the future.”
Rescuers have now begun to reach the worst hit parts of the archipelago, which consists of around 700 islands stretching across more than 100,000 square miles of ocean, after Dorian made landfall at the weekend as a Category 5 hurricane.
Aerial images show a major level of destruction on the ground, and the official death toll of eight, is expected to rise. The hurricane remained over the north-west Bahamas for one and a half days, before weakening and moving away towards the coast of Florida. As of Wednesday afternoon local time, it was moving north bearing towards Georgia and the Carolinas.
Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, down the line from the Bahamas late on Wednesday, Lowcock said that the damage was on an “enormous scale” causing “vast devastation” and leaving around 70,000 in need of life-saving aid on the two islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco.
He said access was “still very limited” to the islands for the rescue and humanitarian relief effort, and noted the scale of the disaster was unprecedented, for what is, essentially, a prosperous country.
Much of the response was being paid for by the government, he said, but given the scale of the disaster, it was appropriate for the international community to respond to the country’s request for assistance.
Following further aerial surveys tomorrow and more data collection “hopefully, very soon after that, we will be able to get teams on the ground” he said, adding that he had told the Bahamian Prime Minister that he would release $1 million “immediately, from the Central Emergency Response Fund, to deal with exactly the set of priorities that he has identified”.
“It’s very unusual, for 20 per cent of the population of a country to be very severely impacted by a single event like this…The Bahamas has certainly never seen anything on this scale”, he said, adding that the most comparable recent disaster was the near total destruction of the Caribbean island of Dominica, by Hurricane Maria, in 2017.
“It’s true that the numbers of people, given the overall scale of emergencies we deal with around the world is not as big as in some other places, but a disaster of such epic proportions on a single country in a single incident is very, very unusual.”