These scenes could have been Volusia and Flagler counties’ barrier islands had the storm not stalled out in Grand Bahama and Abaco.
It’s the details that stab you in the heart:
A photo, caked in mud and left behind, of three smiling women. A young man wading through waist-deep water, carrying a bright-pink shopping bag that holds all he could salvage from his home before floodwaters claimed it. A woman slouched in a sodden recliner, gently carried by four rescue workers into a truck.
But pull back, and the scene is one of utter devastation. Building after building after building, smashed into boards and chunks of rubble. Boats and cars tossed into ungainly heaps. Aerial maps showing two-thirds of the landmass underwater.
This could have been Volusia and Flagler counties’ barrier islands. At one point, forecasters feared Hurricane Dorian would come ashore in Daytona Beach, as a super-Category 5 storm with winds above 180 mph.
Instead, Grand Bahama and Abaco islands took the hit. Dorian stalled out there and spent its wrath, ravaging the two islands for more than 24 hours. At least 30 people are dead. Emergency managers there say more are probably entombed in the mud and wreckage. About half the homes are gone or severely damaged.
[HOW TO HELP: Hurricane Dorian: Volusia relief efforts focus on Bahamas]
“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy,” said the Bahamian prime minister, Hubert Minnis. “The devastation is unprecedented and extensive.”
Minnis is wrong only in this: The tragedy is just beginning. Right now, the challenge is to get food, water, medical care and shelter for thousands of people who have no homes to return to. To search for and rescue the few survivors. To respectfully retrieve the bodies of the dead.
These people live just a few hundred miles away from us. They need our help. We should open our hearts and wallets and send them as much aid as we can. Several local relief efforts — collecting badly needed supplies and money — are underway; we’ll include a list of local dropoff points and international aid organizations with the online version of this editorial at www.news-journalonline.com/opinion, but the first stop, as usual, is the Red Cross.
We should also open our doors. Friday, our U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz joined a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers urging President Donald Trump to waive visa requirements for residents of Grand Bahama and Abaco seeking refuge with family members in the United States. This, Trump should do without hesitation. He should also empower federal agencies to assist in the already ongoing effort to get help to the devastated islands.
Later, the need will grow. As residents of Florida’s Panhandle understand all too well, recovery can be a miserable, prolonged process — one that will be greatly exacerbated by the reality that many Bahamian homes are uninsured and their owners lack the resources to rebuild.
For now, however, we must make it clear that the United States and Floridians — that residents of Volusia and Flagler counties — stand with our neighbors in the Bahamas, just as we do with the residents of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina who absorbed the last of Dorian’s fury.
Next time it may be us. For now, they need our prayers — and our help.