City and county paramedics and firefighters headed back to Miami on Tuesday after five days in the Freeport area, wrapping up a deployment that saw the crews bring the first food and water to isolated areas of Grand Bahama Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
“A lot of people out here are in desperate need,” said Lt. Iggy Carroll, a spokesman for Miami’s fire department. He was part of the squad of more than two dozen people from fire departments in the city and Miami-Dade County that arrived in Grand Bahama on Friday.
Their deployment ended up shorter than expected after the crews found their search-and-rescue specialties weren’t in high demand on Grand Bahama.
While the teams specialize in rescuing disaster victims from collapsed structures, squad members and administrators said they didn’t encounter those perils in or around Freeport. Instead, they put their efforts into traversing previously impassable roads and delivering relief supplies and evacuation options to residents on the outskirts of a ravaged Grand Bahama.
“I don’t think there’s anybody on the island who wasn’t heavily impacted by the storm. I don’t think anybody escaped with no damage,” said Brandon Webb, the county’s battalion chief. “Once we determined there was no immediate life threats, we moved into assisting with humanitarian efforts.”
The crews spent their final day on the island delivering about 2,500 meals from World Central Kitchen, Carroll said. The crews also used drones to search for stranded survivors, city and county representatives said, and utilized all-terrain vehicles to push through debris in order to reach damaged homes in Freeport’s East End neighborhood and the town of High Rock — two communities hit particularly hard by Dorian.
The city and county crews returned to Port Everglades shortly after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday after heading to the Bahamas under unusual circumstances. Rather than having their costs covered by Washington as has happened in past deployments for U.S. hurricanes, city and county governments opted to pay the tab under an agreement with the Bahamian government.
The arrangement was crafted after the Trump administration declined offers for help from Miami and Miami-Dade. Though Miami and Miami-Dade have specialized teams trained in disaster response, they don’t hold the certifications required for international deployments.
While Grand Bahama suffered significant building and infrastructure damage from Dorian, the nearby Abacos chain endured even more devastation.
A search-and-rescue squad from Virginia, deployed as part of the U.S. State Department’s Dorian response, was already conducting operations there when Miami and Miami-Dade were in Grand Bahama, said Maurice Kemp, a deputy mayor in Miami-Dade and the county’s acting fire chief. With work shifting to supply distribution on Grand Bahama, and more relief workers arriving to help, he said the county and city opted to head home.
“What they realized is what’s needed now is humanitarian assistance, and that assistance is coming in,” Kemp said.
“There’s really nothing left for us to do here,” Carroll said Tuesday while still in Freeport. “People who need to be accounted for are accounted for.”