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Bishop of the Bahamas calls hurricane a ‘national tragedy’

Posted on: September 24, 2019 2:02 PM
Hurricane Dorian
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] The impact of Hurricane Dorian on the Bahamas has been worse than imagined, according to the Bishop of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Island, Laish Boyd.

In a pastoral letter about how his diocese had been affected he said: “This is a national tragedy which grieves and devastates all of us… The damage has been catastrophic. The human impact has been heart-breaking. The relationship between people and the sea in the Bahamas is intimate. Many people make their living from fishing. This hurricane has seen a friend become an enemy.”

Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas with 185 mph winds and gusts of 220 mph, also bringing storm surges of 18-23 feet above sea level and wreaking three days of havoc across the islands. The islands of Abaco and Grand Bahamas had the highesst death toll, which is currently at 52 and expected to rise. 1,300 people are still unaccounted for.

Bishop Laish said thousands had been left homeless and people in informal settlements were especially vulnerable. He said, “Abaco, Grand Bahama, and the whole Bahamas will not be the same for a long time. There are years of healing, settling and resettling, rebuilding and redevelopment before us. Entire local economies have to be rebuilt.”

After making several visits to the affected areas, the Bishop convened an advisory council and the Church is currently assessing the situation to plan more detailed proposals for their initial and longer-term responses.

The Anglican Alliance has been offering vital support and practical help since the hurricane struck and was part of a recent conference call with the Bishop and other agencies including the Episcopal Relief and Development’s disaster response officer.

According to the Anglican Alliance Disaster Response and Resilience Manager,
Dr Janice Proud, the Anglican Church is used to being at the forefront of recovery efforts after hurricanes and has a vital role to play simply by being there and offering pastoral care. It is the widest network in the Bahamas, after the government and is trusted by national and international governments and private sector agencies to distribute relief and disseminate information.

Janice Proud reported that church services have now resumed on both islands and are also providing space for relief supplies, with churches worshipping ecumenically to enable their buildings to be used in this way. St Chad’s Church in Fox Town on Abaco is now serving as the local school since the school building was destroyed.

Other Anglican dioceses within the Caribbean who live with similar threats have also offered solidarity. Many churches are holding collections to send to the diocese and the Diocese of Puerto Rico has offered to send medical supplies and personnel. The Archbishop of Canterbury has backed appeals for funds to help the most vulnerable. Relief funds from Anglican churches in America and Canada have also made contributions.

The Anglican Alliance and partners such as Episcopal Relief and Development have been working together with the local church. President and CEO of Episcopal Relief and Development, Rob Radtke, said: “It has been invaluable to have the Anglican Alliance as the single point of contact and as a platform for collaboration in the Anglican Communion at these difficult times. The Alliance helps to clarify communication and identify needs quickly so that we can all do what we want to do: help those most in need. The Anglican Alliance may not be one of the official instruments of unity in the Anglican Communion, but is sure feels like that when the chips are down.”