With Hurricane Dorian leaving widespread destruction in the Bahamas last week, Catholic agencies are coordinating response efforts for those affected by the storm.
“The devastation, especially on Abaco and Grand Bahama, is significant,” said Nikki Gamer, media relations manager for Catholic Relief Services.
Dorian slammed into the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane on September 1, becoming the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall there.
For the next 36 hours, the storm pounded the islands, stalled by an unusual wind pattern over the western Atlantic. When the storm finally moved on, it left entire neighbourhoods under water, with storm surges up to 18 feet higher than normal tide levels, according to the US National Hurricane Centre. Many residents are now homeless, with little ability to communicate with their loved ones as they face ongoing flooding.
The International Red Cross suggested that up to 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or suffered severe damage from the hurricane, which saw winds exceeding 100 mph. The UN World Food Programme is estimating that some 60,000 people may need immediate food aid.
Gamer said that Catholic Relief Services is still working to assess the needs in the area, but it is clear that the destruction is extensive.
“We will be sending a member of our emergency response team to the Bahamas in coordination with a representative of Caritas Granada to support assessments and early response programming,” she said. “We are also coordinating with Caritas Puerto Rico who are planning to send relief supplies based on an update of needs from those on the ground. Other coordination is underway with the Archdiocese of Miami.”
Mary Ross Agosta, communications director for the Archdiocese of Miami, said that the local Catholic community is working to assist with the short and long term needs of those facing devastation in the Bahamas.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski and the head of the local Catholic Charities branch are “in constant communication with Archbishop Pinder of the Bahamas”, she said, and “strong relief efforts are in place”.