Bahamas: Nassau evacuee shelter at full capacity; burials begin on Abaco Islands

Sept. 10 (UPI) — The Bahamian capital of Nassau is taking in many of the thousands displaced by Hurricane Dorian, but officials have warned it cannot take them all.

More than 4,800 survivors have been evacuated from the hardest-hit areas. The country’s largest shelter in Nassau is now at full capacity, said spokesman Carlos Reid.

“[Nassau] is not built to handle this influx at this particular time,” he said. “We don’t have enough schools to do it; our hospitals and healthcare system can’t handle it. Our goal has to be how we can help these people and then get these people back to their islands so they can rebuild it.”

Officials said the goal should be to help the evacuees and ultimately rebuild on their home islands so they can return.

Some evacuees have boarded boatlifts to the United States, the U.S. administration has provided nearly $ 3 million in assistance and the U.S. Coast Guard has evacuated elderly and injured from the islands. Thousands arrived in South Florida this week on a pair of cruise ships and were processed by customs officials. Others have left the Bahamas by airplane.

“Flights are coming in constantly,” acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said Monday. “We’ve already allowed U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens in. We’ve already processed people that have travel documents and don’t have travel documents.”

Thousands of Bahamians were displaced by Dorian when it struck as a Category 5 storm last week, and the official death toll is at 45 — although non-official sources say the actual count is much greater.

Reid warned that negative media coverage could undermine recovery efforts.

“If everything you put out there is negative, then the people will not rise up,” he said. “We want the sun to rise again in the Bahamas.”

Not all of the commonwealth was devastated by Dorian, however. Many popular tourist spots largely escaped Dorian’s wrath and are open for business. While Grand Bahama International Airport and Leonard Thompson International Airport are closed indefinitely, six airports on other islands are open. Several of the country’s biggest ports are open, as well.

The Atlantis Paradise Island Resort is open, as is Cathedral Cave. Some other Bahamian hotels routinely close during hurricane season — from June to December — no matter what the weather is like.

On Abaco Island, one of the hardest hit, burials have begun for many of the dead, the Bahamas Press reported Tuesday. Body bags have been loaded onto trucks and taken to mass graves with no funeral arrangements. The police commissioner directed family members to file missing persons reports if relatives are still unaccounted for.

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