September 4, 2019, By Dave King, Published in Rotary Great Britain and Ireland
Former Rotary International President Barry Rassin has called for Rotarians to help provide financial aid to the hurricane-devastated Bahamas, where at least seven people have been killed – and with the death toll expected to rise.
With sustained windspeeds over 160 mph and gusts of more than 220 mph, the category 5 Hurricane Dorian hovered over Grand Bahama for more than 30 hours, after causing catastrophic destruction in the neighbouring island of Abaco.
Hurricane Dorian is the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Bahamas and is the joint strongest to ever hit strike land in the Atlantic.
According to the International Red Cross, 45% of homes on Grand Bahama and the Abaco have been severely damaged and destroyed – roughly 13,000 properties.
The United Nations has predicted that 60,000 people will need food and clean water.
Bahamian Barry Rassin, has been using social media to appeal for help.
He wrote: “The Bahamas Rotary Disaster Committee has already had meetings and is ready as soon as possible to help our country. They have an account set up for donations.
“Rotary District 7020 has also met and have a disaster fund which can accept some donations.
“Wherever you would like to donate will be very gratefully accepted.
“Hurricane Dorian is the worst ever to hit land and is still creating devastation. We will need all hands on deck to help us restore the islands.”
Barry Rassin added in a later post: “With the Bahamas Disaster Fund, these funds will all go toward relief for the islands destroyed.
“For DAF #574 at The Rotary Foundation, you can specify where the funds you donate are spent by island or country or Rotary District. Each Rotary District has their own fund which they will use at their discretion.
“The Rotary Foundation has a Disaster Fund which will provide disaster grants up to $25,000. You cannot designate where your donation will be spent.
“I hope that brings clarity so you can make a decision as to how you assist.”
Mapping the disaster
As rescue efforts begin, the UK charity MapAction, one of Rotary Great Britain & Ireland’s emergency response charities, is at the disaster coordination centre in Nassau helping to coordinate the response.
Huge waves, torrential rain and storm surge have caused extensive and deep flooding.
According to MapAction, it is believed that fresh water sources in Abaco have been contaminated by sea water and many people are requesting assistance.
MapAction is working closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the Bahamas government and other partners, providing vital maps and information to ensure aid gets to where it’s needed as quickly as possible.
It is hoped that conditions will allow a needs assessment team to travel to Abaco and Grand Bahama shortly to conduct a survey of the situation on the ground.
This is likely to take several days to complete and will be crucial in helping to co-ordinate the response to the situation.
Dorian is the strongest storm to hit the Bahamas since records began and the second-strongest Atlantic storm.
Liz Hughes, Chief Executive of MapAction, said: “This is an extremely serious situation.
“It is unimaginable to think what it must be like to be in the full fury of a hurricane like this for such a long time.
“We are extremely grateful to UK Rotary clubs which have so generously supported us in recent months, enabling us to be ready to respond anywhere in the world as soon as we’re needed.
“Situation maps will be extremely important in the coming days and weeks in helping the rescue and recovery process in the Bahamas.”
UK-based charities geared for response
Another UK-based organisation currently closely monitoring the situation is ShelterBox.
Current Rotary President, Mark Maloney, said his thoughts and prayers were with the people of the Bahamas, and he signposted the Cornwall-based charity in a social media post.
He wrote: “ShelterBox is a Rotary International project partner that delivers emergency temporary shelter and other aid following disasters.
“ShelterBox welcomes contact from Rotarians to jointly assess community needs.
“We encourage you to engage with them to see what support and service opportunities can be offered. They can be contacted at email@example.com.”
Another Rotary-backed charity, Disaster Aid UK & Ireland provided the following update: “Our sister organisation Disaster Aid USA has Domestic Response Trailers prepositioned in Florida (2) Georgia (1) Virginia (1) Maryland (1) Texas (4) and Louisiana (3) on standby if needed.
“They also have a private plane on standby to fly aid if needed. They are currently in touch with Government emergency officials and are tracking the storm. DA USA are establishing communication lines and contacts with the Bahamas to ascertain what aid is needed in the aftermath of Dorian.”
Mark Maloney said he was saddened to hear of the devastation in the Bahamas from Hurricane Dorian and the devastating impact the storm has had on the lives of so many.
He added: “As news of this tragedy reaches Rotarians, many will be calling Rotary International, expressing their concern and asking how they or their clubs can help.
“If your district is undertaking local relief efforts, please let us know by writing: to firstname.lastname@example.org
“Additionally, we encourage you to work with club leaders in your districts to post any disaster relief and recovery projects on Rotary Ideas, Rotary’s online crowd contributing tool.
“Clubs can ask for funds, volunteers, goods, and grant partners. Rotarians and non-Rotarians alike are able to contribute directly to projects and there are no fees to use the tool.
“Rotary members are now able to contribute to The Rotary Foundation’s Disaster Response Fund, a general fund which supports club and district relief activities.
“These contributions fund Rotary Disaster Response Grants to support a district’s immediate disaster relief efforts.
“Visit My Rotary for more information about the Grant and to apply for funding. Longer term recovery efforts may be eligible for support from The Rotary Foundation through a district or global grant.
“The Disaster Network of Assistance – Rotarian Action Group provides advice and support for all aspects of disasters ranging from preparedness through long term recovery and can be contacted for assistance at: email@example.com.
“As always, when organising a club or district response to a disaster, we encourage you to work with reputable first responder organisations to meet the immediate needs of those affected.”
Although the hurricane has weakened to a category two storm with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (177km/h), it has grown larger in area.
The Rotary GBI Disaster Recovery Trust (formerly the Donations Trust) has reopened its Caribbean Hurricane Appeal following Hurricane Dorian.
The Disaster Recovery Trust is a registered charity, established in 2007, which collates donations and makes grants to Rotary projects working to rebuild communities in the longer term through sustainable development projects.
If you would like to support the Disaster Recovery Trust’s appeal, you can:
- Send a cheque – please note that despite the Trust’s recent name change, cheques should still be made payable to Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland Donations Trust, Kinwarton Road, Alcester, B49 6PB
- Use our online payment option through our Virgin Money Giving website.
- Contact the Finance department for bank transfer information
Rotary clubs are eligible to apply for funding from the Disaster Recovery Trust, with more information available within My Rotary. Please note this area is only accessible to Rotary members.