Technical teams on the island of Inagua are continuing detailed assessments for the Government, which will most likely issue an exigency order to provide duty exemptions to residents working to regroup in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham advised Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters following his tour of Mathew Town, the Inagua All Age School and the Morton Salt Company, the Prime Minister reaffirmed the government’s commitment to being responsive to the needs of residents, and to being both efficient and effective in its response.
Mr. Ingraham along with Cabinet Ministers, members of the Opposition, officials of various government departments and the Bahamas National Trust travelled to the island to view the hurricane damage and bring additional relief supplies for residents affected by the storm.
The Prime Minister later made a brief stop in Mayaguana before travelling to the Turks and Caicos Islands in his capacity as chairman of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) to view the damage there.
Following his tour of Inagua, Mr. Ingraham cited roof repair for homes, repair of public infrastructure and the future of the Morton Salt Company as the pressing areas for the island in Ike’s aftermath.
“It is our hope that Morton will see its way clear to restart its operation,” the Prime Minister noted. “They are critical to the economy of Inagua. As a result of Morton, Inagua enjoys the highest standard of living of any of the islands in the southeast Bahamas.
“There are just under one thousand souls who live on this island and they have had a fairly good income as a result of Morton.”
Responding to a question on whether the Government might need to reorder its budgetary priorities in light of damage by Ike, the Prime Minister said he saw no evidence on the ground thus far that would require such a position to be made, adding that if such a position does become necessary it will be considered.
When asked meantime whether the damage sustained in Inagua would allow The Bahamas to access monies from the Caribbean’s catastrophic relief fund, Mr. Ingraham said, “I would doubt that very seriously. I think the threshold is $20 million and I don’t think so, but that is a determination to be made based upon the actual evidence of the assessment.”
Electricity on the island, provided up to the time of the storm by the Morton Salt Company remained off Tuesday. The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) was set to assume responsibility for electricity supply on the island effective September 30.
Mr. Ingraham said discussions will take place with BEC on how that time period might be shortened. He pointed out that the establishment of electrical infrastructure by BEC will be an expensive, but doable undertaking.
The Prime Minister also advised that water supply on the island of Inagua was said to be adequate.
The Inagua All Age School sustained roof and water damage during the storm. Mr. Ingraham advised that the Ministry of Education would make decisions that will result in causing students to return to classrooms in the shortest possible time.
“Whether that will be in existing classrooms or some of the church halls or other buildings in the community is a matter to be determined,” he noted, “but it is not expected that children in Inagua will be out of school for weeks hereafter.”
The Prime Minister pointed out that some of the school’s buildings condemned prior to the storm require major work, adding that repairs to classrooms in use prior to Ike should be able to be done fairly quickly depending on labour and the availability of materials.
Mr. Ingraham also advised that BTC will seek to restore landline communication service to the island in the shortest possible time, highlighting that communication between the islands of The Bahamas was maintained throughout Hurricane Ike.