Recovering paradise: Battered by Hurricane Dorian, The Bahamas sets a course for a resilient future

At the height of Hurricane Dorian’s fury, 185-mile-per-hour winds rattled Pauline Saunders’ home, hammering wind and water at structural weak spots. “The rain was coming in. We tried to close up the windows, but we couldn’t, the force was so strong,” she recalls.

It was 1 September 2019 on Abaco, an island in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas archipelago. The Category 5 hurricane hovered for over 48 hours, packing wind gusts of 220 miles per hour and 20-foot storm surges. On record it’s the strongest ever to make landfall in the country, and one of the most powerful in human history.

Pauline watched as “cesspit water started flowing in like a faucet in the backyard, and water started to come inside the house”. She sought refuge in a friend’s apartment. “When I came back to check on my place, all the windows were burst out, the roof was opened up, so my place was flooded.”

In the aftermath, an inconvenient truth had become real: Saunders’ home, like many others in the direct path of Hurricane Dorian, was not built to withstand such a storm. Half of the houses and buildings in eastern Grand Bahama and Abaco were either destroyed or severely damaged, and 100 percent were decimated in several districts – 3,000 in total.

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