Several Jewish and Israeli humanitarian aid groups are providing aid or relief teams to the Bahamas following the catastrophic devastation unleashed by Hurricane Dorian.
The storm struck the Bahamas as a powerful Category 5 storm on Sunday with wind gusts up to 220 mile per hour and a 23-foot storm surge, then stalled for two days over the Grand Bahama and Abaco islands. It was the strongest storm ever to make landfall in the nation’s history.
So far, 50 people are believed to have been killed and up to 60,000 people may be in dire need of food relief, according to the World Food Progamme. The Red Cross said more than 13,000 houses — or 45% of the homes on the islands — are believed to have been destroyed.
“We can expect more deaths to be recorded,” said Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis. “Our priority is search, rescue and recovery.”
Rabbi Sholom and Sheera Bluming, who co-direct Chabad of the Bahamas in Nassau, the capital, hunkered down for the storm after checking in on community members and began planning for its aftermath as soon as the extent of the destruction became evident.
By Rabbi Bluming’s estimate, there are 1,000 Jewish expats who call the Bahamas their home, with upwards of 100,000 Jews visiting the islands each year.
“Nassau was relatively unscathed by Dorian,” Bluming told Chabad.org, “so our current focus is providing relief to people stranded in Abaco — getting in touch with residents there, and making sure that supplies and aid get to everyone who needs it.”
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) announced that it will provide emergency medical supplies through its partner the Afya Foundation, and is raising funds for these and other critical needs, including recovery and reconstruction initiatives.
“As our hearts go out to the people of the Bahamas, we are working hard to help them heal in the face of unprecedented loss and destruction,” said JDC CEO David M. Schizer. “It will undoubtedly be a long road to recovery, and we call on the public to join us in efforts to address the growing needs of survivors and their communities. Our efforts today in providing a Jewish response to this disaster will ensure a better tomorrow for those facing despair.”
JDC’s disaster-relief programs are funded by appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors.
Similarly, B’nai B’rith International is accepting donations to its disaster-relief fund to assist those impacted by the hurricane.
The NGO IsraAID announced that it is sending an emergency response team to the Bahamas as well.
“IsraAID’s Emergency Response team in the Bahamas will distribute urgent relief supplies, offer psychological first aid, and deploy water filters to restore access to drinking water, while conducting further needs assessments in affected communities,” the group said.
Donations also can be made online through the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh: jfedpgh.org/hurricane-relief. pjc