NASSAU, Bahamas, CMC – The death toll following the passage of Hurricane Dorian at the start of the month rose to 53 with the authorities also confirming that more than 40 autopsies had been completed by Friday.
Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson said on Friday that police had recovered another body from the hurricane-affected area of Abaco and that the death toll now stands at 53.
Abaco and Grand Bahamas were the two islands most affected when Hurricane Dorian, a category 5 storm lashed the archipelago on September 1 with winds in excess of 180 miles per hour. Apart from the deaths, authorities said the damage could total billions of dollars.
Regional and international organizations have been involved in the rescue, search and re-development of the country and Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands said 42autopsies had been completed.
Sands said 39 autopsies have been done in Abaco and three were completed in New Providence.
“As far as identifications go, I don’t know how many people have been able to identify loved ones, but some of the remains have for sure been identified and some persons would have had remains turned over to an undertaker for burial,” he told The Tribune newspaper.
Sands said while the government’s intention is to treat each victim with dignity and there were no plans to conduct mass burials, he is unable to state how long officials would continue to store unidentified remains, pointing to some instances where bodies have been held in the Rand Morgue at Princess Margaret Hospital for years.
“We have to deal with (this) deliberately, methodically and legally,” he said, adding “if those remains are not able to be identified then certainly they would have to be retained for a certain amount of time.
“As we complete the process of going through the missing persons list, having persons try to identify their loved ones, samples for DNA have been taken from those autopsies (and) already completed.”
Meanwhile, Attorney General, Carl Bethel, has said that a draft of the Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill, 2019, is being amended to create additional powers for the government.
“The bill is actually being substantially amended…we’ve determined, as a government, that we wish to have some additional powers, specifically aimed at the restoration period,” Bethel said, adding “the amendment that will be presented to Parliament will have more extensive provisions.
“Among them will be those that are designed to bring legal structure and focus and accountability to the whole process of hurricane restoration and reconstruction. That’s a vital aspect because it’s one thing to prepare for a hurricane [and] another thing to go through a hurricane. It’s yet another thing to give immediate relief in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane
“How does a government marshal its energy, its strength and the kind and hopefully continuing support of the international community in a meaningful way to rapidly restore and reconstruct or assist people in reconstruction or restoration of all that was lost? That is what the new amendment to the present amendment will be designed to seek to achieve.”
The new legislation comes following the passage of Dorian with the government urging people then to If the bill is approved, it would allow the authorities to ensure the residents in mandatory evacuation zones are removed from their homes and taken to shelters.
It is not an arrest for the purpose of incarceration. It is a temporary loss of your freedom of movement to save your life. We feel that that is justifiable under the provisions in the constitution, which state a right but allow for some derogation from that right in the interest of public safety, public health, etc,” Bethel said.