A school bus carrying 10 representatives from the Bahamian Ministry of Works arrived at the East End of Grand Bahama Island on Friday to assess infrastructural damage from Hurricane Dorian.
Their first stop was a stretch of Grand Bahama Highway. Where road used to be, there are now giant holes, some filled with sea water and fish.
“This is totally unprecedented,” said assistant architect Evan Cartwright as he held his hand to his forehead to block the sun and get a good look at the concrete carnage.
The sea water still sitting where the storm surge reached up to 15 feet is compromising the area’s water supply.
“The aquifer here has been devastated,” Cartwright said. “Drinking water for this area is impossible.”
Most concerning to Cartwright is an active oil spill caused by the hurricane at the Equinor oil facility on the shore of the eastern end of the island. The school bus carrying Cartwright and his colleagues carefully maneuvered through the brush next to the destroyed patch of highway Friday to transport them to the site.
“Oil is everywhere,” he said. “In the ocean, drinking water.”
Equinor said in a statement on its website Thursday that it is responding to the spill.
As Grand Bahama highway stretches west toward Freeport, the devastation to the island’s remote communities is raw.
On the left side of the highway, the grass that separates the abandoned houses of the subdivisions Lady Lakes and Fortune Bay are covered in wet debris, as if the homes threw up their insides onto the lawn. The ringing sound of unattended home alarms blared. Boats as big as two-story buildings rested in the middle of the street entangled in downed power lines.
Shawn Sturup , 17, walked along the side of the road Friday with a blank look on his face. He grew up in a green house in Fortune Bay. His mother left it to him two months ago when she died from cancer, he said.
“I lost all of my documents in the storm,” he said, wiping tears from his face. “I’m walking around looking for anything.”
On the left side of the highway, the University of the Bahamas dorms’ walls are shredded, the inside full of electrical wires tangled with plastic bags, furniture scattered.
“It’s completely destroyed,” said a security guard who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the university. “Complete damage, very catastrophic.”
A squad of Miami and Miami-Dade paramedics and firefighters arrived in Freeport by ferry on Friday. They plan to help the city push into the East End district, which Miami’s fire chief said has not yet been reached by authorities.
“Tonight we’re meeting with the chief of police,” Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban said Friday afternoon in Freeport, where he is leading the city response. “We’re hopefully going to provide resources he doesn’t have, and break into the East End.”
Miami Herald staff writer Douglas Hanks contributed to this story.