Ship Of Bahamians Arrives In Florida
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Hurricane Dorian has left 70,000 people homeless in the Bahamas while hundreds of people are still missing. Rescue operations are underway, including airlifts and evacuations by water. A boat carrying 1,500 people arrived yesterday in West Palm Beach from the Bahamas.
Here's Bentley Williams, who was waiting to get on the ship.
BENTLEY WILLIAMS: Yesterday, just to get water alone to take a bath - that took me, like, maybe - what? - six hours just to find water. I can't do it no more. I mean, I'll do anything just to get off the island. I don't want to be here no more.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Traveling on The Paradise, which is the name of the boat, was WLRN reporter Daniel Rivero.
Welcome to the program.
DANIEL RIVERO, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You posted a picture on Twitter of a large crowd waiting in Freeport, the main city on Grand Bahama, which was hit so badly by Hurricane Dorian. They were waiting to get on the ship. Who was allowed on board?
RIVERO: There was a lot of Americans that were still on the island and were unable to get off. So the ship was letting those American passport holders on, but that was a minority. The majority of the people that were waiting were Bahamian residents who withstood the storm and, in many cases, lost everything they had. And they - many of them had visas, so they were able to immediately go to the port once the ship started running. The ship I was on was the - actually the first passenger ship that was offering rides off the island.
The island is, right now, 100% without power. There's basically no water service right now, so a lot of people are just really in desperation. And they were packed like sardines, waiting to get in the line and wait - hoping that they would be one of the ones that received a ticket.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: As you traveled to Florida with the group, I imagine they had so many stories to tell. Can you recount some of them?
RIVERO: Unfortunately, a common denominator was people just telling me, look; I lost everything. The walls literally collapsed in people's houses. I heard from several people that they were stuck hiding in their attics for 30 hours or so until the flood started to recede. And then now, they don't have anything. And even people that do have homes - they told me, well, it's - that's not good enough. My business, my work, my means of making anything of myself was destroyed. So people are finding themselves, really, in positions where they don't know what to do.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What did people tell you about how they actually weathered that storm and what happened to them?
RIVERO: So the island had never flooded in this way. People had built homes over the years in places where they never expected, even under a bad storm, that it would flood in these places. And you know, we should keep in mind - Grand Bahama's seen many hurricanes over the years. This is not the first rodeo. They weren't naive going into this. So people thought that they could ride it out in their homes.
And as the floodwaters started to rise, as the winds were kicking, people had to swim and try to find something to float on from place to place. I talked to one family that had to evacuate three separate times because everywhere they were going - it wasn't high enough, and the water kept getting to them.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The devastation on parts of the Bahama Islands are substantial, as you mentioned. Are people worried they might not be able to return?
RIVERO: That's absolutely a worry of people, and it's - for some people, it's not even quite a worry. They say it matter-of-factually - that they say, look; the island is done as it is right now. So I need to leave and get out of here because there is no hope on this island. I heard lifelong residents telling me that.
And one thing to keep in mind is Freeport in Grand Bahama is 60 miles off the coast of West Palm Beach. So the communities are actually very, very close. There's already existing trade relationships, family relationships.
So most people I talked to - they have family, they have some kind of support structure in the United States, in the state of Florida in particular. So they're looking in this time of need to say, look; I need to get off this island, and I need to go to Florida, where I know at least I have a support network. I can take a hot shower. I can get water when I need it. It's more of a reality than a worry for a lot of people.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: WLRN's Daniel Rivero. Thank you so much.
RIVERO: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.