Frances leaves deep scars on battered Bahamas

News and Press Release
Originally published
By John Marquis

NASSAU, Bahamas, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Bahamians remained in storm shelters on Tuesday after Hurricane Frances swatted the Caribbean island chain with winds in excess of 105 mph (170 kph) last week.

Standing ankle-deep in water outside her home, 70-year-old Grand Bahama island resident Rowena Saunders spoke for many.

"We lost every single thing," she said. "We couldn't save anything at all. All my china, furniture -- everything is just gone."

Prime Minister Perry Christie toured the storm-wrecked community of West End, Grand Bahama, on Monday and said residents in the second largest community in the 700-island nation were in a state of "utter dismay and shock."

Vast areas of Grand Bahama -- the island hardest-hit by Frances -- remain under several feet of water and insurers fear what one agent described as "astronomical" claims.

"The damage in West End we could not even have imagined," said Christie.

"We've seen this kind of damage after major events around the world, but on the road bordering the sea every building has been virtually destroyed."

Frances stalled over Grand Bahama for at least 24 hours last Friday before moving on toward the central Florida coast.

Storm surges pushed sea water into many low-lying homes. One man was drowned while trying to swim from his flooded home to a neighbor's yard.

The 3,000-strong community at West End now faces weeks without telephone, electricity or reliable water service.

The Bahamas government flew planeloads of food and water into the island Monday, and the European Union has offered $600,000 in hurricane aid.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said on Tuesday it was providing $50,000 to buy relief supplies, transport the aid and pay for aerial surveys of the damage.

In addition, it carried out two airlifts of blankets, hygiene kits, jerry cans and plastic sheeting from Miami.

The agency said apart from killing two people, Frances made 700 homeless, destroyed more than 50 houses and damaged sea walls, schools, bridges, roads and docks.

Parts of Grand Bahama International Airport -- a vital air link for the tourism-dependent country -- were destroyed by storm surges.

Damaged tourism resorts said they expected to lay off staff.

Nassau, the capital of the island chain of 300,000 people, escaped a direct hit from Frances and suffered less destruction than it did from Hurricane Michelle three years ago. But there was still significant damage to homes and businesses, with fallen trees and power lines littering roads and yards.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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