CNN News reports today that nearly 1,500 people landed safely in Florida this weekend aboard the Grand Celebration humanitarian cruise ship, “while 70,000 are left homeless” in the Bahamas.
One woman told CNN at the Port of Palm Beach: “It was really, really dramatic. It hurts my heart”to think of so many back home unable to flee, many with children.”
Another woman said she was still desperately trying to find her sister who had been “recuperating under nursing care”.
Art Vercillo, a semi-retired doctor from New York, who was in the Bahamas, said: “You could see an immense amount of devastation. People lost everything … Everything’s flattened.
“People are dehydrated and lack food, he said. “Just a terrible situation over there.”
According to the report: “Most of the evacuees who arrived in Florida Saturday morning were picked up by family members or were provided transportation to reach loved ones in the area, but 50 of the storm survivors will be housed at a shelter, Palm Beach County officials said.
“The Red Cross and United Way are coordinating with Palm Beach County agencies to provide clothing, hygiene kits, wellness and mental health services to those at the shelter, the county said.
“Of the 1,435 evacuees aboard the cruise ship, 539 are US citizens or lawful permanent residents, Customs and Border Patrol said. The others included 857 Bahamians and 39 evacuees of other nationalities.
Less than a week after the Category 5 lashed the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, the island have only just begun “to grapple with the grim aftermath”, the report added.
At last check, 45 people have been confirmed dead — that number is expected to rise drastically as hundreds are still missing, with thousands “desperately looking for a way out”.
Although all of the evacuees were “properly documented to enter the country”, there are reports surfacing today that “an unidentified person announced via a loudspeaker that anyone traveling to the US without a visa must disembark”.
This after a video was posted on social media “taken aboard a ferry boat leaving the Bahamas, posted on Twitter by CNN affiliate WSVN
reporter Brian Entin”.
One man told CNN that “he was on a Balearia ferry from Freeport to Fort Lauderdale when the announcement was made” on Sunday.
“His video shows families with children disembarking the vessel. One woman told Entin that as many as 130 people left the ferry after the announcement,” the report said.
“Another announcement just made ordering any Bahamian without a US visa to disembark ferry — not allowed to evacuate. They were told before boarding it was ok with Bahamian passport and clean polce record. Something has now changed.
“CBP was notified of a vessel preparing to embark an unknown number of passengers in Freeport and requested that the operator of the vessel coordinate with U.S. and Bahamian government officials in Nassau before departing The Bahamas,” CBP said in a statement Sunday.”
According to the CBP: “Everyone who arrives to the United States from another country must present themselves to a CBP officer for inspection at an official CBP Port of Entry. All person must possess valid identity and travel documents.
“CBP has a Preclearance operation in Nassau. CBP is committed to carrying out our duties with professionalism and efficiency – facilitating lawful international travel and trade.”
The CBP website says: “Visas are not required for Bahamian residents flying into the US from the Bahamas if they also meet other criteria, including possessing a valid passport or travel documents, having no criminal record and carrying a police certificate issued within the past six months.
“CBP relies on the transportation companies in both the air and sea environments to be engaged in ensuring the safety and well-being of any individuals that have been devastated by this tragedy and that requires transparent communication and planning for adequate resources to receive any arrivals,” CBP said in its Sunday statement.”
The CNN report added: “It was not immediately clear what the required documents are for Bahamians traveling by boat.”
Meanwhile, Bahamian authorities “believe there are people buried under the rubble, but they have no way of knowing how many or when they will be able to get to them”.
“Search and rescue personnel who arrived with cadaver dogs on the Abaco Islands brought body bags and coolers to store human remains, said Joy Jibrilu, director general of the country’s tourism and aviation ministry,” the report added.
“Authorities have said the current death toll may rise as search and rescue operations begin and they start sifting through the wreckage.
“In the hardest hit areas of Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands, entire neighborhoods had been cleared out, trees and poles were down and boats were scattered.”
Health Minister of the Bahamas, Duane Sands warned: “The public should prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering.”