As Hurricane Dorian finally began to inch north away from the Bahamas, South Floridians are ramping up relief operations to the storm ravaged islands that sit only 100 miles off the coast and have played a historic role in the early settlement of Miami.
But the recovery effort is being frustrated by the slow movement of Dorian as it leaves the Bahamas headed north up the east coast of Florida.
“The big issue is the storm being stationary for so long. The wind conditions are still too miserable to get a prop plane in there,” said Edward Smith, an emergency medicine physician helping coordinate a relief effort with Global Empowerment Mission, a Miami nonprofit that has responded to numerous international disasters.
“I think the chances of flying in a plane are pretty limited for the next 24-48 hours,” he said.
An air ambulance was able to take off Tuesday afternoon from the Tamiami airport in southern Miami, thanks to funding via a GoFundMe page created by the celebrity chef Ingrid Hoffmann. The Colombian-American chef hopes to raise another $20,000 to make 12 flights to rescue people injured by Dorian in the Abacos and get them to hospital.
Global Empowerment is working with a team of volunteer pilots at Tamiami Airport who were hoping to send a plane on Tuesday to a landing strip in the Abaco islands, which took a direct hit from Dorian’s category Five winds. Other airports in the affected area, including Grand Bahama International Airport remained closed on Tuesday due to severe flooding.
Global Empowerment, said it had a medical team ready to respond as well as generators, chain saws, tools and water.
“All we are waiting for is an opening in the weather,” said Smith. “The Abacos are my second home. We really have no idea what condition they are in as they lost all communications,” he added.
The biggest concern is for the communities of Marsh Harbour, Green Turtle Key, and Elbow Key, where Dorian made landfall on Sunday afternoon with 185 mile an hour winds.
“There’s also a lot of small fishing villages there. We hope they heeded warnings to get out. Local people sent boats for them and we hope they heeded the warnings to get out,” he said.
The mayor of Miami Dade County, Carlos Gimenez, also announced Tuesday that its renowned search and rescue team of firefighters, Florida Task Force One, was ready to be deployed. “We have sent this team all over the world. They are part of a federal system and just waiting for White House authorization to respond,” he said.
The county has also opened four locations to receive donations of relief supplies. “Our hearts and prayers are with everyone in the Bahamas. We just have to wait for the hurricane to leave and an infrastructure report to know where to send the aid. We still don't know when and where ,” said Gimenez.
Miami-Dade and Broward residents who ended up being outside the cone of danger from Dorian are being encouraged to donate supplies they bought but didn’t need. “We’ve been buying things for a week now to prepare for Dorian, so now we’re going to give those things to the Bahamas. They are going to need it,” said Miami City Commission Ken Russell, who represents the Coconut Grove district which is home to many Bahamian families.
Residents of Miami-Dade and Broward counties who escaped Dorian's danger cone are being encouraged to donate supplies they bought but ended up not using in the emergency. "We've been buying things for a week to prepare for Dorian, so now we're going to give those things to the Bahamas. They'll need it," said Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell, who represents the Coconut Grove district, which is the historic home of the Bahamian community in the city.
The city of Miami has organized an effort called 'BahamaStrong' with 16 drop-off locations, including fire stations, to collect donations such as water, canned goods, baby formula, flashlights, batteries, and diapers. Tropic Ocean Airways, a Fort Lauderdale-based private charter company, has volunteered to fly the supplies to the Bahamas on Wednesday, if the weather allows it, according to Miami Commissioner Ken Russell.
A group of Palm Beach County boaters created a Facebook group called Hurricane Dorian Bahamas Relief Effort. They plan to collect relief supplies at Island Tyme charters at the Palm Beach County Park/Lantana Airport once it reopens. Group members said they have seven aircraft in all three South Florida counties ready to deliver supplies.
And a group of local fishing captains also set up an Abaco Relief Facebook group with 13 donation spots in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. They plan on taking donated items directly to the Bahamas with the first boat set to leave on Saturday.
First on the scene were US Coast Guard helicopters that started airlifting people in need of urgent medical care out of Abaco on Monday. "The US Mission to the Bahamas is assisting victims of Hurricane Dorian in Abaco, in the Bahamas,” officials from the US Embassy said in statement from Nassau, the Bahamas capital, which was largely unaffected by Dorian.
“US Coast Guard helicopters are evacuating injured persons from the Marsh Harbour clinic to Nassau for urgent care,” the statement said, adding that so far helicopters had airlifted 12 persons out of Abaco.
The US government was also coordinating broader relief efforts with the Bahamas, including collecting satellite imagery of critical infrastructure to help relief agencies identify the most affected areas “for humanitarian needs as soon as the weather permits.”
A British Navy ship in the Caribbean is also heading to the Bahamas with a logistical support team "ready to help" in the hurricane relief effort, according to the Foreign Ministry in London.
Elbert Hepburn, a Bahamas native who owns the Freeport based Elnet Maritime Agency a native of the islands who owns the Elnet Maritime Agency, based in Freeport, told Univision that he had pledged to pay 22 charter flights to deliver donated from Broward County, just north of Miami, which also has extensive business and family ties with the Bahamas.
"Many friends in Florida want to help," but they have to be patient with the weather, said Hepburn, 39, who has family in Grand Bahama and the Abacos. He was awaiting authorization to make the first flights. "We want to get down to work and work with local community groups that can help people who really need it," he said.
The Walt Disney Company also committed more than $1 million in cash and in-kind support late Tuesday to help relief and recovery efforts from Dorian.
Our Little Bahamas
"It was Bahamian settlers who helped build Miami," Russell told Univision. "The people who moved here from the north did not know how to grow in this climate and soil, so they hired Bahamians and paid them with land instead of cash, so some of them stayed here in the black community in Coconut Grove," he explained, referring to one of the most famous bayfront districts in Miami.
"Coconut Grove is our 'Little Bahamas.' When we incorporated the city, we did not have enough literate people to sign, so they used the signatures of the Bahamian settlers," he explained.
Historic local Coconut Grove churches founded by Bahamians, such as Christ Episcopal Church and the nearby Greater St. Paul A.M.E. Church, are leading a drive for relief supplies to be delivered to victims by seaplane. In less than a day, they had already collected stacks of canned food, bottled water, diapers and toiletries.
At Greater St. Paul A.M.E. the Rev. Nathaniel Robinson said he was inspired by the response at the church which was packed with volunteers on Sunday.
“We all have relatives in the Bahamas and we need to get help to them as soon as possible,” he told Univision.
Helping donate for the Hurricane Dorian relief effort in the Bahamas:
- Miami Dade County: County pickup points: Miami-Dade County Main Library, 101 W. Flagler St., Miami; Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW First St., Miami; Joseph Caleb Center 5400 NW 22nd Ave., Miami; Office of Emergency Management Warehouse, 8008 NW 14th St., Doral.
- City of Miami: has organized an effort called BahamaStrong. Onions are accepted at fire stations and churches throughout the city. For a list of delivery locations, visit miamigov.com/Government/BAHAMASTRONG.
- Global Empowerment Mission: Call 305.458.1029. Donations: firstname.lastname@example.org; Volunteers: email@example.com
- Hurricane Dorian Relief Bahamas: Telephone: 954-5923332
- World Central Kitchen : The World Central Kitchen disaster relief team founded and led by the famous chef and philanthropist José Andrés, is now on the ground to feed the Bahamians devastated by Hurricane Dorian. There are four kitchens installed in Grand Bahama, in Castaways Resort & Suites and Grand Lucayan Resort; one at Great Abaco, at the Abaco Beach Resort; and one in Nassau, in Atlantis Bahamas.
- Food for the Poor: accepts canned meats, canned fish, canned milk and disposable diapers from 10 a.m. at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday from Wednesday in its warehouse at 6401 Lyons Road in Coconut Creek, Fl, 33073. You can make donations here: FoodForThePoor.org/bahamas.
- The Bahamas Red Cross: is accepting financial donations at bahamasredcross.org.
- United Way of Miami-Dade: Operation Helping Hands: All funds raised through Operation Helping Hands will go directly to help people affected by Hurricane Dorian. To donate: Visit unitedwaymiami.org, call 305-643-2501 or 211, or send a check payable to Operation Helping Hands, c / o United Way of Miami-Dade, P.O. Box # 459007, Miami, FL 33245-9007