Complete and utter destruction. That is the only way to describe the scene on the Island of Abaco in The Bahamas after Dorian, a devastating category five hurricane, struck the island. People did and still do not know what to make of the situation. There is no shelter, no food, no water, and no help. The government of The Bahamas has struggled to provide the necessary aid for the people of Abaco in the wake of the nation’s strongest hurricane on record. In a New York Times Article, one resident expressed her frustration by shouting “Lousy government! Lousy Prime Minister!” (Semple). Many residents are feeling frustrated and betrayed by the inaction of the national government. The Bahamian state, like many weak states, has failed to provide the necessary aid for its citizens in a time of crisis, as a result, the residents are left in a hopeless situation and with a sense of distrust in the abilities of the state.
September 1st, 2019 is a day every resident of Abaco will remember. With sustained winds of 185mph hurricane Dorian made landfall. The infrastructure of the island stood no chance against the strongest storm in recorded Bahamian history. Forty-three people have reportedly died, however, that death toll is only expected to grow as people are still being found in the debris and in the ocean. The stories of the aftermath are simply horrifying. Washington Post coverage attempted to put some of the destruction and devastation into perspective although the extent of the damage is unfathomable. One woman described the island as having a stench of death because of dead bodies still littering the island. Bodies are continuing to be found in the water, under buildings, and on the shore (Washington Post). In addition, the stranded residents are without necessities. Many have resorted to looting for whatever food can be found on the island as a result of the lack of state aid. This has created more tension among the stranded residents, and has caused some business owners to protect their belongings with personal guards (Semple). The residents of Abaco need the aid of the state, however, that state aid is nowhere to be found.
The situation in Abaco reminds me of a similar situation seen in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. The Wall Street Journal reported that approximately 200,000 to 250,000 people were killed when a seven magnitude earthquake hit Haiti in 2010 (Luhnow). This was far more than hurricane Dorian’s death toll in the Bahamas, however, some similarities can be drawn between the two natural disasters. Both states experienced major natural disasters while they were unprepared and lacked the capacities necessary to support their citizens. Weak states, like Haiti and The Bahamas, lack the necessary building codes or adequate infrastructure to protect their citizens from these types of natural disasters. Disasters of this scale will definitely cause damage to the strongest of states, however, the damage will be far less and death tolls will be lower. This was the case for Chile, which experienced an equally large earthquake as the one in Haiti with only a fraction of the fatalities. The 8.6 magnitude earthquake in Chile caused a death toll reaching the thousands, still a staggering amount yet only a fraction of the death toll seen in Haiti. The main reason for this lower death toll is that in Chile all houses including low income houses are built to withstand an earthquake. The homes and buildings in the country are built to sway with the seismic waves, allowing them to experience minimal damage thus lowering the death toll (Carroll). By having a strong state, Chile was able to protect its citizens with building codes and a better response system, something that weaker states like The Bahamas and Haiti are still grappling with in the wake of their natural disasters.
By having a stronger state, a country is able to protect its citizens and provide the necessary services to help them in times of need and crisis. The Bahamas is in crisis, however, the aid of the state is slow to non existent on the island of Abaco. This is not due to the willingness or the efforts of the state, but it is simply a telling sign at the lack of capacities and resources available. As aid helicopters flew overhead one Bahamian Defense Official said that the reason the Defense Force was not flying was because it did not have any helicopters (Semple). The fact that the Bahamian Defense Force does not even own helicopters goes to show their lack of capacities. With a lack of building codes and lack of state capacities to get citizens to safety, it is no wonder the situation on Abaco Island is so dire.
A strong state provides protection for its citizens, especially in times of crisis. Hurricane Dorian has altered the landscape of Abaco Island and many parts in The Bahamas. The Bahamian people are strong, however, without the help of a strong state the citizens are only able to do so much. As the citizens of Abaco are left grappling with their loss and mass destruction of their home, the state is effectively nowhere to be found. Due to the weak state of the Bahamas, the road to recovery for the people of Abaco will be long and hard.
Carroll, Rory. “Chile’s Earthquake Was Horrible – but It Could Have Been so Much Worse.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1 Mar. 2010, www.theguardian.com/world/2010/mar/01/chile-earthquake-resistant-design.
Luhnow, David, and Ianthe Jeanne Dugan. “Haiti Quake Damage in Billions.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 17 Feb. 2010, www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703798904575069614263432520.
Semple, Kirk, et al. “In Bahamas, Battered Residents Ask: Where Is Our Government?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Sept. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/09/07/world/americas/bahamas-hurricane-dorian-relief.html.
Washington Post. With Bodies Still in the Streets, Bahamians Look for a Way out of Marsh Harbour. YouTube, Washington Post, 6 Sept. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=A gxlL40ibUc .