Hurricane Dorian lashes at the Bahamas

On the 24th August, a tropical depression formed south-east of Barbados. Over a matter of days, as it was studied by NASA satellites, it developed into hurricane Dorian. Passing over Barbados as a tropical storm, Dorian quickly reached hurricane status on the 28th August near the U.S. Virgin Islands. By The 2nd September, Dorian was breaking records and became the joint-second most destructive storm to hit the Atlantic, with gusts of over 200mph destroying everything in its path, accompanied by storm surges of up to 23 feet above normal tide levels. The speed of the hurricane rapidly declined after the 2nd September, meaning the storm lingered over Grand Bahama for over 18 hours, causing significant flooding. Over the following three days, Dorian moved up the east coast of the USA, ending in North Carolina on 6th September where it was degraded. At the time of writing, post-tropical storm Dorian had reached Canada.

As the first major hurricane of the 2019 season, and the fifth tropical cyclone, Dorian caused significant destruction to the Bahamas, south-eastern USA and Atlantic Canada. As of the 9th September, the death toll in the Bahamas has reached 50, and cruise liners are shipping over 1000 people to the US in the hope of being taken in as environmental refugees, a request that is currently being dismissed by President Trump. The US Customs and Border Protection department has delivered food and water to the islands by helicopter. The settlement of Marsh Harbour in Grand Bahama was devastated, destroying the homes of hundreds of Haitian refugees settled there after the 2010 earthquake.

Teams in the Bahamas are now said to be ‘focusing on the living’. According to Bahamas Health Minister, Duane Sands, “While it is critically important to find everybody who perished, it is more important right now to find those that have survived and make sure nobody else perishes”. It is still unknown how many people are missing since the hurricane devastated the island, with names of family and friends being collected around the nation.

While it’s too early to state the long term impacts of hurricane Dorian, it’s certain that the recovery process for The Bahamas will be long and laborious, starting with accounting for its citizens, before beginning to assess damages and work on repairs. It may take months for this process to get underway.

International responses to the hurricane have been mixed, with the US providing aid of food and water via helicopters but refusing entry of environmental refugees to the country. There has been conflict internally over the US response to the hurricane, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration contradicting President Trump’s scientifically incorrect assertions about the prospect of the storm hitting Alabama. The UN World Food Programme has pledged to provide $2.8 million in food and emergency supplies to the nation, and support for 44,000 people. Aid organisations across the world have begun raising funds to help with recovery efforts and volunteers assembling to help government officials look after refugees, and begin efforts to assess the damage to the islands.



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Laura Taylor

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December 2021
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