One year after the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the Bahamas turned much of the islands to rubble within just two days and three separate landfalls, residents on the islands of Abaco are still struggling to mend the wounds of destruction.
In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian ripped through the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane -- the highest rating on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. The deadly hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 185 mph, which tied Dorian with Hurricane Allen in 1980 as the second-strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the Atlantic basin.
In the immediate wake of the storm's fury, more than 200 people were reported missing and thousands more were displaced. Thirty deaths were reported by Sept. 4, 2019, and Bahamas Health Minister Duane Sands said at least 20 of those came from the Abaco Islands.
Two Haitian migrants sit as one stands amid the ruins of a home destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in Abaco, Bahamas, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
"Life [in Abaco] before Dorian was easy," Beth Warren, president of the Abaco Rescue Fund, said this week in an interview with Brittany Boyer on the AccuWeather TV network. "They lived a very simple life, a very happy life."
The Abaco Rescue Fund, a Florida-based non-profit organization, was established to assisting the victims of Hurricane Dorian by offering humanitarian aid, helping to rebuild homes and provide safe housing, assist with trauma and host community events to bring people back together in a positive way.
Those living on the islands were mainly employed in the tourism industry. However, there has been virtually no tourism since Dorian, Warren explained.
The tourism industry accounts for half the $5.7 billion GDP of the Bahamas each year, Ellison Tommy Thompson, the Bahamas' deputy director-general for tourism and civil aviation said, according to The Miami Herald.
"It's extremely important," Thompson said after the hurricane struck last year. "The two islands that were hit, Grand Bahama and Abaco, are second and third in terms of visitor arrivals. We will definitely feel the effects of them being out of commission. But the best way people can assist the Bahamas is to actually come and visit us and spend an extra $20 in the economy to help our reconstruction."
In late November 2019, The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) said Abaco was experiencing "unprecedented economic loss" following the destruction from the hurricane, The Tribune reported.
The Inter-American Development Bank said that the tourism infrastructure of the Bahamas was hit with "catastrophic" damage equating to about $530 million, with most of the damage focused in Abaco.
Alyssa Rose of the Abaco Rescue Fund told AccuWeather that one year after the traumatic storm, the Abaco Rescue Fund continues to take part in rebuilding projects, such as roofing, windows, doors, and more on homes. She said a lot of the homes her team has worked to rebuild were in Guana Cay, an outer island located in Abaco.
A Bahamas coroner's team carries a body out of The Mudd neighborhood in the Marsh Harbor area of Abaco, Bahamas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
"The struggles in Abaco are still very real," Rose said.
"I think that it's important that people realize that there are still people that have not had electricity for nearly a year now," she continued. "They haven't had a dry roof over their head. They're living in tents. They don't have employment."
The organization sees through any promises and commitments they make to the community, Rose said. Last year, the group was able to raise $1 million, and she said its members aim to reach the high achievement again this year as rebuilding efforts continue.
"Every dime helps someone get back into their house," Beth said.
While they aim to stay in Abaco for three years to work through the damage, Rose has stated that members of the organization will remain for as long as needed.
"Being able to help and having the opportunity to go down and help has been extremely rewarding," vice president of the Abaco Rescue Fund Davis Warren said. "I feel really blessed to be put in a position to where you can help."
Additional reporting by AccuWeather Broadcast Meteorologist Brittany Boyer.
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