Dorian was the strongest hurricane ever on record to hit the Bahamas, moving slowly over the islands as a Category 5 storm. The death toll continues to rise and thousands of people are still missing or unaccounted for.
Now the survivors are in desperate need of help. Dorian’s devastation has leveled homes and buildings and left many with no shelter, food, or water. The people of southeast Florida are no stranger to the devastation that hurricanes can bring, and they’re reaching out with aid to their brothers and sisters in the nearby Bahamas.
The Archdiocese of Miami and Archbishop Thomas Wenski have a longstanding relationship with the Bahamas and helping them in times of disaster. Peter Roustis-Arroyo, Director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese, is in communication with Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau about what the most needed items are.
“The biggest thing one can provide us right now is help financially. We work very closely with Archbishop Pinder in the Bahamas. We’ve been communicating with the Archbishop on a daily basis, what his needs are. As in the past, what he will do is send us a list of his needs and we will purchase in bulk tax-free and we have the ability to ship it right into the Bahamas wherever he needs it,” explained Roustis-Arroyo. Archbishop Pinder accepts the shipments and distributes the goods to those who need them.
What sorts of things are Catholic Charities sending to the people of the Bahamas? It’s the most extensive list they’ve received to date, says Roustis-Arroyo. “It’s meals ready to eat, cleaning kits, first aid kids, and it’s your typical non-perishable canned goods and water, air beds, blankets, but a lot of cleaning supplies.”
The northernmost islands of Grand Bahamas and Abaco were hardest hit by the hurricane and are still in the midst of search and recovery efforts. Roustis-Arroyo will be flying to the Bahamas next week and will be accompanied by a staff member who is from Abaco and has lost at least one family member.
With devastation this extensive, it won’t be a quick fix. Catholic Charities expects that recovery and rebuilding will take many years.
“It’s going to be a long process, no question about it. The key right now is getting through search and recovery. My biggest fear is some of these numbers are still going to be staggering in terms of what the possible death toll can be. And then once you can get through that you’ve got to get the humanitarian aid in there … there’s going to be a lot of relocation going on. And then that’s when Catholic Relief Services and other organizations can really look to help the country rebuild the islands, which is what’s going to have to happen over a period of many years.”
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