NASSAU, The Bahamas — Up to yesterday, 2,500 people were unaccounted for in The Bahamas, following the onslaught of Hurricane Dorian last week.
It is not immediately clear if Jamaicans are among the individuals on the Bahamian Government’s register as being missing, as a National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) representative told the Jamaica Observer that that update is not yet available.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, NEMA spokesman Carl Smith said The Department of Social Services is the agency managing the Government register of missing people, adding that the numbers have not yet been cross-referenced with other records.
After this is done, he believes the number of missing people will decline.
“This list has not yet been checked against Government records of who is staying in shelters or who has been evacuated. The database processing is under way,” he told journalists at NEMA’s Gladstone Road offices. “Some individuals who evacuated from Abaco and Grand Bahama have not yet registered with social services and are encouraged to do so at the Department of Rehabilitative Services and Welfare Services.”
He said, too, that some of the Government’s lists will have to be converted to digital format to allow for effective cross-checking.
“As we are able to cross-reference our data sets, we will be able to inform family members and reunite survivors with loved ones at the shelters,” Smith said, adding that NEMA will provide regular updates to the public on how the missing persons’ register is being managed.
The NEMA spokesman also said that at the shelters, the agency is facilitating those who are able to reach out directly to family and friends to let them know where they are.
To date, 5,500 people have been evacuated to New Providence. Almost 1,800 people were in the nine active shelters yesterday, and the NEMA spokesman said an update will come on the number of evacuees who have travelled to the US.
Meanwhile, Director of Social Services Lillian Quant-Forbes told the press that people are constantly coming into the shelters.
“We are having to quickly prepare as many shelters as we can. We had some challenges meeting the demand because many of our shelters were not available to us for various reasons, but we’ve moved beyond that and persons are now coming to assist us as well, in terms of private-public partnerships, and so that is one of the things that we are appreciative of,” she said, adding that she has also met with a church group that is offering to assist the arm of Government to identify homes that are available for people who are in the shelters to move to, because the shelters are not permanent homes.
“We are trying to get persons back to normalcy as quickly as possible,” she said.