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A Month After Hurricane Dorian Hit The Bahamas, Recovery Is Slow And Uneven


A month after Hurricane Dorian walloped the northern Bahamas, the recovery is slow and uneven. Abaco was hit the hardest. And there, heavy machinery is just now beginning to come in to help remove debris. There's still no electricity or running water in Abaco's main commercial town of Marsh Harbor. And stores there are still closed. NPR's Jason Beaubien was on Abaco days after the storm hit, and he's returned to check in on the situation. He's, with us now.

Hi, Jason.


MARTIN: So as you make your way around Abaco, what are you seeing? What's changed in the last month?

BEAUBIEN: You know, definitely, a lot of the debris has been cleared off of the roads. You can move around now, and, you know, aid groups are coming in. And they're starting to put up roofs on the buildings that are salvageable. But there are still vast areas that are just like wastelands, just debris or trees that have been stripped of all of their leaves. And there's some neighborhoods that are eerily quiet because there's no people around at all because so many people have left the island.

MARTIN: And what is the Bahamian government focused on right now?

BEAUBIEN: So I would sort of sum it up as relief and rubble. On the one hand, they need to keep people alive who are here, and so there's efforts to make sure that people can get access to water, to food, to basic toilets, and then getting the rubble cleared away. I talked with Frankie Campbell. He's the Minister of Social Services and Urban Development for the Bahamas. He says there has been this outpouring of love and support from the international community. He says they've got plenty of food, water and clothing that's arrived.

FRANKIE CAMPBELL: I can report that there's no one starving. There's no one dying of thirst. There's no one walking around naked. But we have a sense of urgency to get people into their homes or some form of housing that is airtight and watertight.

BEAUBIEN: And the minister says that the next big steps are going to be clearing that debris, getting commerce going again and rebuilding.

CAMPBELL: As for urgent need - building supplies, building materials and persons who will help us build.

BEAUBIEN: And he's saying that that building may even be short-term housing. There's talk about building tent cities to house people in the coming months. They need people to have somewhere to stay as the entire place gets rebuilt. So when he says rebuilding, it might not just be houses. It might be some short-term form of housing.

MARTIN: So that's the view from the Bahamian government. What about the locals - whoever is still around? How are they coping?

BEAUBIEN: You know, people went through an incredibly powerful, devastating storm that was incredibly traumatic. Many of their friends have lost. People are very stressed out. I talked with this one woman, Clairzulia Michelle Frederick (ph). She used to survive by renting three rooms in her house. But the roof has been ripped off of her house now, so she doesn't have any tenants. And there's, like, drywall that's turned to wet mush all over her house, and the house is destroyed. But even after that, this is what she told me.

You're planning to stay. You're going to stay here.

CLAIRZULIA MICHELLE FREDERICK: Yeah, I have nowhere to go. I stay here. That's why I try and cover the roof when the wind come in to stop the wind coming inside this house.

BEAUBIEN: She's in her 50s and says what she really needs is a man to rebuild her house. But in the meantime, she got her young nephew to get up on the roof. And he's been nailing up some tarps to try to fill some of the biggest openings and keep the water out.

MARTIN: Well, you know, I know it's a hard question, Jason, but do you have any sense of when things might improve, when things might really start to get better?

BEAUBIEN: You know, it's going to be a while, but I did talk to this one guy. He's the - sort of the main grocery store magnate. He lost five stores. He's planning to finally get a grocery store open, he says, in four to six weeks. That's going to be a big step forward to actually be able to buy food. You know, there's something else going on, though. People keep mentioning it - that the greenery is starting to come back. You know, when a storm comes through with 220 mile-an-hour winds, it just devastates all the trees. And everything looks dead. And the greenery has started to come back, and I think that is starting to give people hope that things will rebound. And so there's definitely that sense that things are going to improve. But how long it'll be? That's a hard one to answer.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Jason Beaubien in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas.

Jason, thanks so much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.

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