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Bahamians Assess Post-Floyd Damage

September 15, 1999

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) _ Bahamians shoveled sand from homes and removed uprooted trees from streets Wednesday amid reports of widespread destruction on distant islands in the aftermath of powerful Hurricane Floyd.

One man was missing on northern Grand Bahama Island after the van he was riding in got stuck in a storm surge Tuesday and he tried to swim to high ground.

Freeport resident Bobby Tinker disappeared just west of town, said Inspector Kendall Deveaux. A friend, Nelson Davis, survived.

``They were trying to beat the hurricane. They were trying to get back to their homes when they got caught,″ Deveaux said.

Several people, including one who fell off a roof during the storm, were treated for minor injuries in Nassau, the Bahamian capital.

Floyd’s winds ripped roofs off hundreds of wooden homes, beached dozens of boats, flooded beachfront condominiums and floated cars in 6-foot storm surges while pummeling the fragile islands east of Florida on Tuesday.

Electricity and telephones remained down throughout most of the 600-mile long archipelago on Wednesday, complicating the task of reporting casualties and damage that was certain to soar into the millions of dollars. U.S. military and Bahamian aircraft were sent to survey the islands and airlift emergency supplies if needed.

Nassau’s airport reopened Wednesday afternoon, with charter flights to ferry tourists out and the first commercial flight to Miami scheduled for evening.

All services were expected to be restored on New Providence Island _ home to half the Bahamas’ 310,000 people _ by late Wednesday, the government Tourism Ministry said.

The U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas, Arthur Schechter, accompanied Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham as he flew to Cat, San Salvador, Abaco and other islands to inspect storm damage.

Abaco and the tiny keys on its periphery, including Man-O-War Cay, Green Turtle Cay and Elbow Cay, sustained ``extreme″ damage, said Chris Lloyd, senior officer with the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association.

On New Providence Island _ home to half the Bahamas’ 310,000 population _ all services were expected to be restored by late Wednesday, the government tourism ministry said.

On the hard-hit eastern island of San Salvador, Club Med officials were trying to charter aircraft to evacuate 380 tourists who rode out the storm at the resort, which was running on generator power. The sprawling island’s Atlantis resort reported only minor damage and major hotels in Nassau were also spared significant damage.

Government radio ZNF said most homes on San Salvador, population 1,000, were roofless, and reported ``mass structural damage throughout the country.″ Docks and citrus orchards were destroyed on Ackland Island, and a chicken farm was washed away on New Providence Island.

``The main road is destroyed. Houses are destroyed. Residents say they are in desperate need of essential services,″ ZNF radio reported from Abaco Island.

Floyd’s winds had reached 110 mph on Abaco, Eleuthera, San Salvador and Cat islands, and damage was feared to be extensive.

In Nassau, mounds of wind-driven sand and dangling power lines slowed traffic to a crawl. Under brightly sunny skies, residents inspected a half-dozen smashed boats beached along Nassau’s West Bay Street; another half-dozen were stranded along nearby Arawak Cay.

``They looted my boat. They stole my stove. How can people do that when I already have so much trouble?″ shouted Omar Segundo, surveying his beached 100-foot freighter in Nassau.

Mattresses, lumber from ravaged docks and other debris littered beaches. Uprooted sea grape and almond trees lined a central boulevard. Utility workers swarmed the streets, fixing downed power lines.

``I don’t know what to do now. It was all I had,″ said Michel Ashnell as he stared at a pile of lumber _ all that was left of the 25-foot boat he used to ferry supplies among the islands.

Denise Skeete held her 2-year-old son, Levi, as she watched neighbors remove a tree that had smashed her small wooden home in half. ``I am just worried about getting the tree out of my living room,″ she said numbly.

Prime Minister Ingraham said he expected all schools and government offices on New Providence Island to reopen Thursday.

On Grand Bahama Island, police used small boats to rescue air traffic controllers, meteorologists and airport workers who had been stranded by a 6-foot storm surge at the seaside airport.

``We had some vicious flooding,″ said constable Chris Barr. ``We had cars floating around.″ Police patrolled Freeport streets to prevent looting.

Radio stations reminded residents to keep an eye out for Hurricane Gert, whose winds reached 150 mph Wednesday and, at 5 p.m. EDT, was centered 725 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands. It was moving westward at 13 mph, and a gradual turn to the west-northwest was expected Thursday.