Residents of the Bahamas are still reeling from Hurricane Dorian, a category 5 storm that hit the Caribbean island nation Sept. 1-2.
As of Sept. 10, at least 50 people were killed in the storm, although that number is expected to spike in the coming weeks. Over 70,000 Bahamians were left homeless after 185 mph winds ripped entire buildings off their foundation.
Thompson nursing student Barry Bostwick Jr. said his immediate family are included in the latter group after their house in Marsh Harbour, the commercial hub of the Abaco Islands, was completely destroyed by the hurricane.
Since he was in Manitoba when the hurricane hit, the 22-year-old got the bad news over Facebook Messenger Sept. 2, when his mother, Christine, was finally able to access a Wi-Fi hotspot at a relief shelter.
While his immediate family members managed to escape with their lives and their important government documentation, the rest of their possessions were lost in the storm.
This includes the Bostwick’s childhood home, which he and his dad, Barry Sr., built by hand.
“We didn’t have a mortgage or anything. We scrapped and we worked hard,” he said. “I helped put blocks on that foundation. I helped my dad put up those walls and now it’s just gone.”
Bostwick lived through several hurricanes growing up in the Bahamas, but said this storm, based on his parents’ account, is far more powerful than anything they’ve experienced before.
“I’ve been through one or two category 5s … so this isn’t something that’s completely foreign to us,” he said. “But my dad says there’s never been winds like this.”
Bostwick said Sept. 11 that his family is currently staying with relatives in Florida, which should give him an opportunity to visit them when he gets a break from his studies at the University College of the North.
However, getting off the island in the first place was difficult, since his family had to scavenge gas from abandoned boats to make it to Treasure Cay Airport.
Bostwick said the Bahamian government should shoulder a lot of the blame for the plight of his family and other evacuees who are in a worse spot, since he believes the crisis relief effort was poorly managed from the start.
“They had resources and help that was available to them and they didn’t even take full advantage of it,” he said. “They made light of this storm [before it hit]. ‘Oh, it’s just a tropical depression.’ Their emergency organization wasn’t prepared in the slightest.”
Although it’s too early to tell for sure, Bostwick is doubtful that his parents will return to Marsh Harbour and rebuild their home once everything clears up.
Not only has mould and mildew already set in, but the nursing student doesn’t think his father is capable of tackling another construction project of this magnitude.
“My dad is 51. He can’t rebuild his house. He’s not 20,” said Bostwick. “My mom said it’s too far ahead in the future to even think about.”
Since the future is uncertain now that the Bostwicks’ home is destroyed, Barry Jr.’s wife Rebecca started a GoFundMe campaign to help her adopted family start over.
Outside of paying for their flights out of the country, this campaign is also focused on giving the Bostwick family money to buy clothes, food and other necessities so they can get back on their feet.
While Bostwick welcomes any kind of financial support for his family, he’s also asking Thompson residents to keep other Dorian victims in their thoughts as well, since it’s going to be a long time before life in Marsh Harbour, and the Bahamas in general, returns to normal.
“The stench of death is just everywhere, because they haven’t been able to move those bodies that are scattered throughout the streets,” he told CHTM Radio Sept. 11. “There’s not even a single power line that’s up. They’re all snapped in half. There’s no infrastructure, there’s no gas, there’s no food.”
Anyone who wants to donate to the Bostwick family can do so by searching for their GoFundMe page titled “Please Help Our Family After Hurricane Dorian!”