Two months after the devastating impact of Hurricane Dorian, residents of Green Turtle Cay, in the Bahamas “have resorted to burning their trash in an attempt to prevent disease.
NBC News reports, area residents say they haven’t received help from the government since “the worst natural disaster in Bahamian history”.
Green Turtle Cay, a three-mile long barrier island, was lashed for more than 30 hours by Category 5 hurricane-force winds up to 185 mph – flattening “nearly half the structures” in that area and a trail of devastation across the Bahamas.
According to the Ministry of Health: “Total estimates suggest Dorian left 1.3 billion pounds of debris in its wake, which could cost $74 million to remove.”
One resident said: “Our dump was completely full. The island had no choice but to burn it before garbage piled up.”
Without proper prevention efforts, health officials fear “disease could spread through the population, which numbers about 500 and with families sharing cramped spaces in whatever dry homes are still standing”.
“The resulting trash fire has created a polluted haze near the dump, where pigs and cats rummage for contaminated food. While these animals are not a threat to the community, disease-carrying rodents and bugs could prove deadly,” the report said.
Dr Duane Sands told NBC News: “Rats and mosquitoes are a big deal. If we do not get that right, then we are really in trouble.”
It was also noted that the Bahamas “is always on alert for vector-borne diseases such as cholera, scabies, dengue fever and zika”.
“Researchers are sampling mosquito populations on the islands to flag the emergence of these diseases, with early detection being a top priority,” the report added.
“The Ministry of Health says they have seen no spike of symptoms for vector-borne illnesses since the storm but remain cautious.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry “discourages any island from burning debris”.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, burning trash “can be deadly since dioxins from house fires are considered extremely toxic”.
“Smoke inhalation from household appliances, such as washers and dryers, and asbestos materials can cause irreparable harm.”
Environmental medical officials warn this type of pollution “could increase the risks of chronic lung disorders, especially in children, on an island where families without power or running water are fighting to stay healthy”.
“The nonprofit Samaritan’s Purse has begun chipping away at the Bahamas waste issue by hauling 89,100 cubic feet of debris from Man-O-War Cay — filling 11 barge trips,” the report added.
“It has also placed crews on neighboring Elbow Cay and Great Abaco, but has no immediate plans to aid Green Turtle Cay.”
Relief efforts have been “plagued by hurricane Dorian-related infrastructure problems and remains understaffed because doctors and nurses have been displaced”.
“This has left residents turning to American nonprofits for long-term recovery help,” the report said.
Just a ten-minute boat ride across the Sea of Abaco, the island of Great Abaco “is facing an apocalyptic aftermath”, where “military personnel are still actively searching for bodies”.
While the Royal Bahamian Police say the death toll from Dorian is 67, others say “it is likely hundreds are dead on Great Abaco”.
“Locals tell NBC News that as many as 3,500 undocumented Haitian refugees were killed in the city of Marsh Harbour, which was leveled by a 25-foot storm surge.
“With more than 75,000 Bahamians affected, government ministries are left scrambling to figure out how to cover the estimated $7 billion cost of recovery — an amount that dwarfs the island nation’s annual operating budget of $2.6 billion.
“The Bahamas’ Department of Social Services said more than 787 people remain in six shelters on Great Abaco. The Bahamas Red Cross said it has served more than 4,700 families as of mid-October, by supplying hygiene items, kitchen supplies, blankets, buckets, and jerrycans, including to 50 households on Green Turtle Cay,” the report added.
“In the nation’s capital of Nassau, officials said the archipelago is a victim of extreme weather due to climate change and needs to become a priority for environmental activists since rising sea levels are expected to further intensify the impact of hurricanes.”
Bill McKibben, the co-founder of the environmental advocacy group 350.org, wrote in an email to NBC News: “Island nations illustrate the iron law of climate change: the less you did to cause it, the more you suffer. Nations are starting to disappear.”
“Residents on Green Turtle said they have been ignored by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and have turned to American nonprofits for long-term recovery help,” the report said.
Another eighth generation Bahamian to live on Green Turtle Cay said: “This was by far the worst storm in my lifetime, but the United States has responded incredibly.”
“NEMA doesn’t deny most of its resources are tied up in the larger islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama and said the only logistical chance it has to help smaller islands is with international partnerships”.
“Much of the American effort has also been focused on injecting capital into staple restaurants on Green Turtle in the hopes of growing the work force and stabilizing supply and demand issues that have inflated the price of a single onion to $4, for instance.
“Locals also say generators have become an enormous expense with fuel prices remaining at $5 per gallon — meaning a refrigerator can cost more than $500 a month to run.”
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis travelled to Green Turtle Cay at the end of October “to announce the formation of the Bahamian Disaster Reconstruction Authority, as well as making the Abacos tax-free zones until June 2020, in an effort to stimulate local businesses”.
But the report said: “Green Turtle residents joke that enough toothbrushes have been donated for every tooth on the island, as well as thousands of diapers for only a few babies among the residents on the cay.”
One resident, a 64-year-old fisherman who has lived on Green Turtle all his life said: “If it wasn’t for America, we would be dead.
“Our government hasn’t given us anything, not a bottle of water.”