By Simon and Susan Veness
This is a very different blog this week. It is basically an appeal, a simple human request to our fellow cruise devotees to dig into their pockets for an extremely good, nay, desperate cause in compassionate aid.
The Bahamas need our help.
Sitting here in central Florida, we have had what amounts to a ringside seat for the destructive forces of Hurricane Dorian this week. This monstrous, ultra-destructive storm has just passed us by, going along the coast of the Sunshine State like a malevolent buzzsaw, nibbling at the edges of the coastline but sparing us any significant damage.
Not so for the string of islands just to our south-east, the glittering aquamarine jewels of the shallow seas between the Caribbean and mainland North America. For the northern islands of the Bahamas, there is only utter devastation and grief.
Dorian has left a calling card of such apocalyptic ruin and wreckage, the brain struggles to come to terms with what it is seeing in the Abacos and Grand Bahama, home of Freeport, the second-busiest cruise port in the islands.
What once were archetypal paradise playgrounds of inviting sands and ridiculously blue seas are now mangled masses of indistinguishable destruction. Homes, harbours, businesses, schools, infrastructure, all chewed up and spat out in such random fashion that it is impossible even to grasp what they once were. Entire neighbourhoods have been practically erased from the map.
Amid the widespread mass of the physical damage lies the human element of this terrible tragedy, where one of nature’s most harmful forces has impacted the lives of every single person who lives there. Dozens are dead or missing, thousands are homeless, and life will never be the same again for these ill-fated islanders, many of whom already existed on the lower rungs of the income ladder.
Many emergency agencies are already rushing to the aid of the stricken region, which has been crushed under the weight of an unprecedented Category 5 hurricane that simply rolled across the Atlantic and stalled over the northern Bahamas, unleashing 185mph winds and a massive storm surge across islands that peak at little more than 100ft above sea level, with most of their extent at 20-30ft.
The storm surge was reported to be up to 20ft, exacerbated greatly by Dorian’s unwillingness to leave Grand Bahama, where it sat and revolved for around 36 straight hours. Now we can see the extent of the desolation, our hearts bleed for those caught in the crosshairs of this freak event.
“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said on Wednesday as his country began to assess the scope of the wasteland left in Dorian’s wake. “The devastation is unprecedented and extensive. The images and videos we are seeing are heartbreaking.” Minnis added. “Many homes, businesses and other buildings have been completely destroyed.”
Fortunately, the world has not been slow to respond and, in particular, the cruise world has been among the first to pledge large amounts of financial and other aid to the islands. Some 75 per cent of the Bahamas’ annual 6.6million visitation comes from cruise ships, so it is heartening to see this immediate response:
- Disney Cruise Line has pledged a $1million donation to relief funds.
- Royal Caribbean is sending thousands of meals and rescue equipment from Florida on several of its ships, and helping to evacuate the injured from Grand Bahama.
- Carnival will donate $2million from all its brands to rescue and relief efforts, including $1million from the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation.
- Norwegian Cruise Line also announced a $1million donation, plus the deployment of the Norwegian Breakaway to assist with much-needed supplies and emergency aid.
There will almost certainly be others, which is only to be expected, seeing as how the cruise industry has benefitted so much from the islands over the past 50 years or so since Caribbean cruising became a major year-round business.
For all its tourism, the Bahamas is not a wealthy country. The per capita annual income is only $21,280, according to the World Bank, and the limitations of living in such a fragile environment are obvious.
We have visited the islands numerous times, and gorgeous Eleuthera remains one of our favourite places worldwide for a chilled-out holiday of blissful proportions, with enormous eye-appeal and some of the friendliest people on the planet.
In the very simplest terms, these people now need our help, especially for immediate financial aid to help the thousands who have been made homeless.
With that in mind, we have compiled a list of the many reputable organisations who are all providing immediate relief to those in the Bahamas (in addition to making our own donation). Here are links to six who all pledge to ensure the money goes where it is most needed:
International Medical Corps: A global non-profit helping survivors get critical medical care.
World Central Kitchen: Founded by celebrity Chef José Andrés, they are already on the ground providing meals for Bahamian families as they begin to rebuild.
Bahamas Red Cross: providing non-perishable goods, baby supplies, bedding and cleaning items.
Team Rubicon Disaster Response: an international disaster relief non-profit of military veterans and first responders who rebuild houses, clear debris and help organise large groups of volunteers.
Global Giving: providing immediate and long-term disaster relief.
Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Fund: formed by the Grand Bahama Port Authority for Hurricane Dorian relief efforts.
We sincerely hope you can find some cash to help at least one of these organisations. This is a simple humanitarian appeal, and it deserves our whole-hearted support.
Susan & Simon