Thousands of hurricane survivors are filing off boats and planes in Nassau, Bahamas, facing the prospect of starting their lives over but with little idea of how or where.
A week after Hurricane Dorian laid waste to their homes, some sat in hotel lobbies as they tried to figure out their next step. Others were taken by bus to crowded shelters. Some had friends or family who offered a place to stay.
“No one deserves to go through this,” 30-year-old Dimple Lightbourne said, blinking away tears.
Dorian devastated the Bahamas’ Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, leaving at least 50 dead. That number will probably rise.
Lightbourne’s mother, Carla Ferguson, a 51-year-old resident of Treasure Cay, walked out of a small airport in Nassau with her daughter and other relatives late Monday afternoon and looked around as the sun set.
“We don’t know where we’re going to stay,” she said. “We don’t know.”
Ferguson and her family had one large duffel bag and three plastic storage boxes, most of them stuffed with donated clothes they received before leaving their tiny, devastated island.
The government has estimated that up to 10,000 people from the Abaco islands alone will need food, water and temporary housing. Officials are considering setting up tent or container cities while they clear the country’s ravaged northern region of debris so people can return.
Getting back to Abaco is the dream of Betty Edmond, a 43-year-old cook who picked at some fries with her son and husband in a restaurant at a Nassau hotel, where her nephew is paying for their stay.
They arrived in Nassau on Saturday night after a six-hour boat trip from Abaco and plan to fly to Florida on Wednesday, thanks to plane tickets bought by friends who will provide them a temporary home until they can find jobs. But the goal is to return, Edmond said.
“Home will always be home,” she said. “Every day you wish you could go back.”
The upheaval, however, was exciting to her 8-year-old son, Kayden Monestime, who said he was looking forward to going to a mall, McDonald’s and Foot Locker.
Instead of starting school Monday, as had been scheduled before the Category 5 storm hit, Kayden spent the day accompanying his parents to the bank and a shelter as they prepared for the move to the United States.
Lightbourne said she couldn’t wait to escape the disaster. “I don’t want to see the Bahamas for a while. It’s stressful,” she said. “I want to go to America. . . . This is a new chapter.”