Destruction To Bahamas Ports, Airports Complicates Relief Efforts

The devastation in the north Bahamas from Hurricane Dorian is so extensive on some islands that humanitarian organizations will have trouble quickly getting relief supplies to people in need, especially with the main airport in Freeport closed due to flooding and damage, logistics providers say.

With airports and Freeport container terminal knocked out, the only way to reach places such as Abaco Islands, Elbow Key, Freeport and other areas is by helicopter and small ship, according to people involved in the rescue efforts.

A local offshore supply vessel is headed to Marsh Harbor in Abaco to survey and mark the channel so other vessels can safely navigate, said Michael Rettig, the founder of Lift Non-Proift Logistics, which assists charitable groups. Small vessels, however, could face dangers for the enormous amount of debris floating in the waters, he added.

"The way we get aid in currently is from locally sourced aid loaded on vessels in Nassau being sent up to the impact zone," Rettig said.

A notice from the International Civil Aviation Organization said Grand Bahama International Airport is flooded, based on unconfirmed media reports. Ray Gonzalez, an account manager at IBC Airways in Fort Lauderdale, FL, said the Freeport airport is completely under water.

The American Red Cross said on its website that prepositioned supplies — such as tarps, hygiene items, jerry cans and hand-crank cellphone chargers — are in place in the Bahamas to be shipped. Local charities also are organizing collections of needed supplies.

YachtAid Global is mobilizing vessels in Nassau and South Florida to take supplies to the impact zone. A convoy led by the Motor Yacht Loon left Nassau Wednesday morning for one of the devastated islands, board member Norma Trease said in an email update to supporters. The vessel will deliver needed supplies, pumping 9,000 gallons of fresh water starting Wednesday evening. The group is also sharing images and drone footage with the U.S. Coast Guard and other responders. 

World Hope International, another nongovernmental organization, has shipped five solar-powered desalination plants and 5-gallon buckets to Nassau on Pilatus PC-12s with the help of Sol Relief, which brokers general aviation aircraft for emergencies, according to Rettig and Sol's Facebook page. The desalination machines can each make 1,800 gallons of water. 

Three planes arrived Monday, immediately after the storm, and four more PC-12s flew into Nassau, bringing chain saws, medical equipment, rigid inflatable boats, jet skis and other material, Rettig said.

Shipping lines that regularly serve the Bahamas are limited to using the Port of Nassau. Tropical Shipping, a subsidiary of Seattle-based Saltchuk, said on its website that one of its vessels is sailing from its homeport in Palm Beach, FL, to Nassau Wednesday, and that Freeport remains closed. The islands also are regularly served by SEACOR Island Lines and ferry service Balearia Caribbean.

Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale, FL, announced that it is waiving tariff charges for ocean shipping lines transporting humanitarian relief supplies to the Bahamas.

Air Charter Service said in a news release it is receiving calls for helicopters to conduct aerial surveillance, as well as bring back some islanders to assess damage to their homes. Its cargo division has sent medical supplies to the region and is fielding calls for help getting supplies to the Bahamas.

Airlink, another broker for airlines and non-governmental organizations, said it has initially worked to fly in search-and-rescue and medical teams, while its partners try to determine cargo needs in the area.

Rettig suggested that aid efforts may transition to full-scale evacuations in some areas because most of the structures are uninhabitable.

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