MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: hurricane recovery in the Bahamas.
NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s been almost two weeks since Dorian slammed into the northern Bahamas, devastating the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. Recovery teams are still searching for victims. The death toll has topped 50. Sadly, that’s expected to rise.
REICHARD: Samaritan’s Purse is one of several international organizations that’s mobilized in the Bahamas to help victims.
Aaron Ashoff is the deputy director of international projects for Samaritan’s Purse. He’s managing the group’s work in the islands and joins us now to talk about it.
Good morning Aaron!
AARON ASHOFF, GUEST: Good morning! Thanks for having me.
REICHARD: Start by telling us what you’re hearing from your team. What are conditions like right now, and how are the local people holding up?
ASHOFF: We’re still using words like catastrophic devastation. I think what we’re seeing now this week are more evacuations from Abaco Island to Nassau. We’re dealing with the population that remained that really is in need. So we’re thankful we were one of the first teams that got on the ground last week. We’ve got teams on Grand Bahama. We’ve got teams on Abaco and of course Nassau where we’re kind of command-in-control there—not to get ahead of anything, but we’ve got about 100 people on the ground. So we’ve got a lot of disaster responders there—a lot of different competencies.
REICHARD: Samaritan’s Purse has a lot of experience with all kinds of natural disasters. Can you give us a sense of how Dorian’s aftermath compares? What’s different, and what’s similar?
ASHOFF: I think with Dorian it’s been tough to get access to the populations. The storm had a different effect on the different islands. Abaco got terribly hit by wind. Freeport got damaged by a lot of water. So that dynamic’s interesting that they didn’t get hit the same way. Damage was catastrophic on Abaco, so when you think of things just completely being destroyed, I don’t think people were far off to say it looked like bombs were dropped. That’s always something that’s poignant in these type of emergencies when natural disasters hit this hard. So I would say in terms of things we’ve seen, they got hit as hard as we’ve seen it. The population—some were able to get out and some were not. So that is not a good situation for those who didn’t. The population that didn’t get out, a good part of it were Haitians and they, I think, took the brunt of it. So we were mindful of that. We’re trying to find ways to help everybody and to be aware of some of the nuances of this storm.
REICHARD: Samaritan’s Purse set up an emergency field hospital, basically a white tent, on Grand Bahama. That’s one of the two islands hit hardest by the storm, as you say. What work is going on there?
ASHOFF: A lot of work. We knew pretty quickly we wanted to get the emergency medical capacity out there. It became clear that the largest hospital on Grand Bahama was not operational. It was flooded out. Grand Memorial. And we received an invitation over the weekend from the Ministry of Health in the Bahamas and the Pan-American Health organization to deploy our tier-2 field hospital. We jumped on it. It’s a 40 bed hospital that can serve up to 100 patients a day. We had over 80 yesterday on the first day. Emergency surgeries, some minor surgeries, but it was a bit of a surprise to me we’re still seeing hurricane injuries. And that’s why we’re there. We’re going to help out. And it’s a good operation.
REICHARD: Final question: What are the next steps in your response to Dorian?
ASHOFF: Well, the next steps, I mean, the next immediate steps are we’re trying to get as much emergency shelter tarp out as we can on Abaco Island. So that’s a big need to create some sort of emergency temporary shelters for people that are there that need it. We’re heavily involved in water access, getting clean water that people can drink to the people on Abaco. So we’ve got a few desalination units that are mobile, that are on trucks so we can get them to the communities where they need water. I think beyond that we’ll be looking at other shelter needs, like where these communities go from here. So we’re going to be constantly assessing what’s possible there and where there are opportunities that we might get involved in.
REICHARD: Aaron Ashoff is managing Hurricane Dorian relief efforts for Samaritan’s Purse. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today.
ASHOFF: Anytime. Thank you!