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Bahamas face critical shortages in Dorian’s ‘horrific’ wake

The death toll continues to climb days after Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas, and government-run shelters there have reached their brinks, leaving thousands of residents sleeping in the streets and facing shortages of food, water and medical care that are exacerbating an already dire situation. Jenelle Eli of the International Federation of Red Cross joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Jenelle Eli is with a Hurricane Dorian operation for the American Red Cross. She joins us now from Nassau Bahamas. How significant is the devastation that has happened there?

  • Jenelle Eli:

    The devastation here is massive. And honestly it's heartbreaking. I was on the island of Abaco and there were so many houses without roofs and other houses that were just completely demolished. Even when landing in the airport I landed you could see trees uprooted and snapped in half. People are really telling some horrific stories about the damage.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Have most of the people managed to get off are they on the other islands like Nassau?

  • Jenelle Eli:

    So there are a lot of people who have managed to get off whether by boat or helicopter or plane. But there definitely are more people still there and in need of assistance.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Right. Well what are the most immediate needs besides shelter if they have places to go and if there are government shelters? But that means water, electricity. I mean it sounds like the there is no infrastructure left.

  • Jenelle Eli:

    Certainly on the island. Water, food, electricity, medical care and emergency shelter are huge needs. There are a lot of people still sleeping on the streets. There are people in need of clean water and sanitation. We've seen in disasters before that if clean water isn't addressed within you know the first days and weeks it could cause secondary humanitarian need. So that's absolutely a priority at the Red Cross we're also focusing on something else which is helping reconnect families even people who've lost their homes lost their livelihoods lost all their physical property if they haven't been able to get in touch with their loved ones their family members if they're not sure whether they're safe and alive. They really don't have peace of mind. So that is top of mind for lots of people affected by this disaster. And the Red Cross we're really hoping in the days and weeks ahead to focus on that.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So are you creating essentially the equivalent of a virtual pinup board where people can say here I am? Has anybody heard from so-and-so?

  • Jenelle Eli:

    That's a great way to put it. We have a program called restoring family links. And we open up cases of people who haven't heard from their loved ones and family members during disasters or other crises. And we're able to help trace whether those people are alive safe maybe where they are.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And what's the easiest thing that someone from mainland United States can do right now?

  • Jenelle Eli:

    So right now to help people affected by Hurricane Dorian in both the U.S. and the Bahamas we're asking people to go to Red Cross dot org and donate. But another thing people can do is just take this moment to remember that disasters can happen any time big disasters can affect anyone. And this is a good time to take stock of your own evacuation plan. Have your own emergency plan. How will your family react. What will you bring with you. Even first aid classes these are things we recommend so that people are really ready for disasters when they strike.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You've seen a lot of different disaster zones. Is it going to be possible for a place like Abaco Island to recover from this the heartbreak families are facing?

  • Jenelle Eli:

    That's not something that people easily recover from. And that will take a long time but so will the physical needs. Right now we're really focused on urgent needs. But in the future people certainly will need to have their livelihoods restored. People lost their fishing boats their bicycles the stock in their stores. And so those are things that humanitarian agencies will also want to focus on as we move forward.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right. Janelle Eli from the Hurricane Dorian operation for the American Red Cross joining us via Skype from the Nassau Bahamas today. Thanks so much.

  • Jenelle Eli:

    Thanks for having me.

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