Hurricane survivors struggle to start new life in Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) – Thousands of hurricane survivors are filing off boats and planes in the capital of the Bahamas, facing the need to start new lives after Hurricane Dorian but with little ideas on how or where to begin.

Some sat in hotel lobbies as they debated their next steps. Others were bussed to shelters jammed to capacity. Some got rides from friends or family who offered a temporary place to stay on New Providence, an island of some 13,000 residents that has never seen so many people arrive on its shores in recent history.

Carla Ferguson, a resident of Treasure Cay, walked out of a small airport in Nassau with her daughter and other relatives late Monday afternoon and looked around as the sun set.

“We don’t know where we’re going to stay,” she said. “We don’t know.”

Ferguson and her family had one large duffel bag and three plastic storage boxes, most of them stuffed with donated clothes they received before leaving their tiny, devastated island.

“No one deserves to go through this,” said her daughter, 30-year-old Dimple Lightbourne, blinking away tears.

Hurricane Dorian survivors talk to firefighters at their damaged home. PHOTO: AP

The government has estimated that up to 10,000 people from the Abaco islands alone, including Treasure Cay, will need food, water and temporary housing as officials consider setting up tent or container cities while they clear the country’s ravaged northern region of debris so people can eventually return.

Getting back to Abaco is the dream of Betty Edmond, a 43-year-old cook who picked at some fries on Monday night while with her son and husband in a restaurant at a Nassau hotel, where her nephew is paying for their stay.

They arrived in Nassau last Saturday night after a six-hour boat trip from Abaco and plan to fly to South Florida today, thanks to plane tickets bought by friends who will provide them a temporary home until they can find jobs. But the goal is to return, Edmond said.

“Home will always be home,” she said. “Every day you wish you could go back.”

“You try to keep your hopes up, but …,” she added, her voice trailing off as she shook her head.

The upheaval, however, was exciting to her eight-year-old son, Kayden Monestime, who said he was looking forward to going to a mall, McDonald’s and Foot Locker.