Hurricane Matthew’s Destruction in Andros

On October 5th, the eye of a category 4 hit the northwest tip of Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas.  For weeks, no news came from this part of the island and we couldn’t reach a friend who lived there.  When we finally heard from Diane, she had been living without power, no generator and everything she owned was destroyed.  She was thankful to be alive with her pup, but she sounded exhausted.

We arranged to fly to Andros with some basic relief items they couldn’t get on the island: Tools, giant garbage bags, tarps to cover leaking roofs, a generator, and three of us to help as needed with a positive attitude.  Basic supplies such as food, water and gas were being delivered from Nassau to the ports.  But moral, with such a loss and no electric were low.  We wanted to help as needed and assess the situation for the afternoon with a bigger plan on how to help.  Communication up until this point was limited with spotty cell service and no internet.

20161020_133040_resizedA 15 minute drive from a small airport called San Andros took us to the center of Nicolas Town. A cell phone tower built to withstand winds of 140 MPH was cut in half.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“Holy crap, this is bad.” I said.

Most of the homes looked fine from the outside, just tarps covering some roofs. We placed supplies we brought at a temporary house, a safe house where our friend withstood the hurricane.  The roof had a huge hole in it, and water damage although evident especially on the wooden floors seemed minor in comparison to the larger picture. The place was organized and clean thanks to Diane’s adopted kids.

20161020_120145_resizedWe set out to assess the damage at Knoll’s Landing, Diane’s quaint B&B on a lagoon.  A bulldozer paved the way through the trees and around dislocated boats as we followed to her unrecognizable resort.  Her remaining personal belongings scattered the landscape.

“I have nothing left of my 25 years here.” She confessed.

Together we felt two of her three buildings were structurally sound.

“Do you want to rebuild?” I asked.

“This is my home.”

“O.K. Let’s come up with a plan, and we will return for a few days to help.”

andros-planeMy husband and I returned to Florida, gathered more supplies and headed back to Andros. The power was still out, and the town seemed desperate but strong and connected to one another.  No help from the Bahamian Government or other relief organizations since the news didn’t cover their loss.  Haiti, Freeport and Nassau were also hit, so North Andros was forgotten.  Also, the political debate in the states controlled and dominated the media.

This time we stayed for two days, the most we could do with our schedule. We brought supplies from our previous visit list:  chain saws, flashlights, batteries, generator, roof tiles, more tarps, more garbage bags, and some food for dinner. Our plane loaded to the maximum capacity.

20161024_144120_resizedI helped clean up the yard. One section at a time, one day at a time, one large bag at a time. My husband and an adopted local kid secured her one surviving room with power via a generator, a makeshift water pump to provide fresh water, flood lights and enough security to live and feel andros-water-pumpsafe until power is restored, perhaps months from now.  At the bottom of this bungalow sat another cottage with a 1000 lb tree trunk in the center. Oh, the power of storm surge.  Only water could move this into her home.  It tore though the storm shutters, sliding doors and sat there among the debris.

“How am I going to move this tree stump?” Diane said.

“Make it a coffee table with a story.” I responded.

She has much work to do, and much-needed help and funding.  But I hope some day to see Knoll’s Landing up and running with the wonderful and welcoming host.  Diane has a go fund me page and every bit helps.

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