Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort, Part 4

Trans Island AirwaysTHIS PAGE WILL BE UPDATED CONTINUALLY THROUGHOUT THE DAY. PLEASE KEEP CHECKING BACK TO FOLLOW OUR PROGRESS AIDING COMMUNITIES IN THE SOUTHERN BAHAMAS IN THEIR RECOVERY FROM HURRICANE JOAQUIN.

Please contribute to our relief efforts via our crowdfunding page at YouCaring.com.


7:00 pm: Our last plane just safely returned to Nassau. Tired crews will now have a well deserved break, because tomorrow will be another busy day. Good night.

5:30 pm: Our first team, a helicopter that went as far as Buckleys, Long Island, just returned to Nassau. Debriefing now.

3:35 pm: Many of our volunteers have to return to their regular work tomorrow, but we – and the people of the southern Bahamas – still need your help. If you can, we are looking for ten volunteers to help us at Odyssey Aviation starting at 7am tomorrow. Also, Fast Ferries is joining the relief effort tomorrow, too, and we need another ten volunteers out at Potters Cay dock at 7am.

3:30 pm: The DC-3 has returned from the Exuma hub, and Florida Air Cargo has kindly donated another flight to the South. Plane being loaded at this moment, and we hope it’ll be in the air in a few more minutes.

2:20 pm: The first photos are reaching us from Crooked Island, as our team has returned to the hub in Exuma – and thus cell coverage. They were able to land and unload in Pitts Town, after clearing some debris to allow vehicles access to the planes and their cargo.

1:45 pm: Palette shortage overcome, thanks to the donations by Nassau Paper Company, and one other donor whom I unfortunately didn’t catch. Let me know if you see this, because you do deserve a shout out. Thanks!

1:00 pm: A seaplane is enroute to our hub in Exuma to provide the first load of relief items for Clarence Town, Long Island, which still cannot be reached by road. We are feverishly working on scheduling a second flight in the morning, for we have received urgent please for prescription medicines by some of the residents there.

12:00 pm: Does anybody have a ground contact with authorities in Acklins to ensure that relief items can be received and distributed? We have a seaplane ready to go.

10:00 am: Now loading a DC-3, the use of which has been donated by Florida Air Cargo. These planes have been the backbone of air cargo since WW2. It will carry goods to Exuma from where smaller planes and helicopters will distribute it to communities the big planes cannot reach.

9:30 am: We need more palettes at Odyssey Aviation for our airlift. Please contact us if you can assist: 427-2009.

8:55 am: No, we cannot take you to the affected islands to see your loved ones. Every body in an aircraft means extra weight, which in turn means either less fuel (thus limiting our range), or less supplies (thus providing less relief). Additional people in the affected islands also increase the need for supplies. Please understand!

8:35 am: Please continue to donate relief goods, our collection point at Odyssey Aviation on the Coral Harbour Road is operational. In particular, we need more WATER and TARPS, as well as all the other items from previous lists.

8:25 am: Doctors and nurses boarding the next flight to Crooked Island, accompanied by Archdeacon Keith Cartwright.

8:20 am: First plane is in the air, a seaplane headed for southern Long Island. Two more taxiing out now, bound for Rum Cay and Crooked Island.

8:00 am: We are expecting five more pilots and their planes to join us from Florida today. Thank you to our brothers and sisters in the North for their support!

7:00 am: So far, we have 21 flights scheduled for the day, covering Crooked Island, Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador. Unfortunately, we are unable to safely fly into Acklins at this point, but we will be carrying several RBDF Marines to Crooked Island, who are expected to assisst with clearing the runway in Spring Point.

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Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort, Part 3

12144942_10153527815179961_4222400213852652531_nPlease donate to the Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort via our crowdfunding page on YouCaring.com, or the following bank account following the instructions below:

Scotiabank Bahamas
Name: Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort
Transit: 03465
Account No.: 170944

All Funds to be sent is US currency (wire instructions for other currencies can be provided on request)

Intermediary/ Correspondent Bank:
Swift: CHASUS33
JPMORGAN CHASE BANK
NEW YORK, NY, 1166 AVE OF THE AMERICAS 10036-2708
ABA: 021000021

Beneficiary Bank:
Scotiabank Bahamas Ltd
Nassau, Bahamas
SWIFT: NOSCBSNS
A/C # 001042940

Beneficiary Customer Information
Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort
A/C # 170944
TRANSIT # 03465


12141519_10153527497544961_2421510531277806403_n

The day’s resume: Today we were able to fly a successful reconnaissance flight around the islands of Acklins, Long Island, Crooked Island, Long Cay, San Salvador and Rum Cay. This flight lasted 7 hours and allowed us to asses the needs of each area based on observed damages and in working with the Director of Civil Aviation we were able to provide the necessary information which lead to the opening of Stella Maris Airport. We have established a base in Exuma where the majority of flight operations will shift to tomorrow allowing us to rapidly serve more locations. We have continue to get an outpouring of support from the community. We would like to thank all of your for your support without which none of this would be possible. As of 8pm tonight, we have 21 flights scheduled for tomorrow to provide relief to all of the open airports and are utilizing a seaplane to reach flooded areas. There are numerous different efforts running at the moment to help the citizens. I cannot stress it enough that we are a group that is not politically affiliated or aligned with only one island, we are here to help the entire Bahamas to the best of our ability. While flying over the islands today it was shocking to witness the damage that was created by a single storm, however it was equally uplifting to see Bahamians on the ground coming together and working, before any supplies reached to rebuild their communities. Tomorrow along with Florida Air Cargo and Tropix Air Ltd we will be utilizing Odyssey Aviation Bahamas’s Exuma location to act as a forward operating base, making our operation more efficient and making your donations last longer enabling us to do more flights in less time.

19:15 Update: Minister Khaalis Rolle just advised that relief goods may be brought in to the country duty exempt.

18:30 Update: Awaiting return of last aircraft, then it’s time for some shuteye. We will be back at Odyssey at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning.

17:20 Update: Our seaplane has returned from Long Island. Pilot was able to land and distribute relief items. Waiting to hear a situation report.

17:10 Update: The volunteers and organisers of the Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort are kindly asking that you please do NOT call our cell phones to inquire about loved ones on the affected islands. We understand that you’re anxious, but clogging up our phones impedes our work. When we hear from the residents in the South, we will relay their messages to you via our social media presence. Thank you.

16:00 Update: A Cessna Caravan has departed for Exuma to begin the establishment of a distribution hub, which will allow planes to carry less fuel – and thus more cargo.

13:30 Update: A Cessna Caravan Amphibian has departed Nassau with a cargo of relief goods destined for Long Island. We are hoping to be able to do several more flights with seaplanes before sunset.

12:20 Update: Our plane has been able to refuel in Exuma. Landing on Long Island is not possible yet. The crew is continuing to assess other islands.

11:50 Update: We need volunteers and drivers to help us transport relief items from Soldier Road to the airport. (Also, some refreshments for our volunteers would be much appreciated, they’re sweating in the hot sun.)

11:30 am Update on the Update: Thanks to Commonwealth Brewery and Darville Packaging, our box crisis has been resolved for the time being.

11:10 am Update: Another kind of item our team needs… empty cardboard boxes. Think beer case kinda size.

10:50 am Update: Civil Aviation just confirmed that all airports on the affected islands are closed until further notice. NEMA and U.S. Coast Guard crew are at Nassau airport.

9:53 am Update: The container has arrived.


Trans Island Airways' Cessna 402Trans Island Airways’ Cessna 402 departed from Nassau’s international airport at 8:30 am to fly over the southern Bahamas for an aerial assessment of the damage and the airport conditions on those islands. We expect the plane to return around 12:30 pm.

Then we will be in a better position to know which airports can be flown in to to receive relief items.

Aquapure, Caribbean Bottling Co. and Chelsea’s Choice have pledged substantial donations of drinking water. We therefore do not anticipate needing more bottled water at this time.

A container from Four Seasons Crane & Equipment Rental and Just In Time Trucking to receive in-kind donations is scheduled to arrive at Odyssey Aviation (southern end of Lynden Pindling International Airport, on the Coral Harbour Road) at 10:00 am. Priority items needed include: First Aid kits, non-perishables, heavy-duty gloves, baby formula, diapers, batteries, flashlights, tarps, yard bags, toilet paper, paper towels, matches, dry pet food, feminine products.

Collection points in New Providence are Seahorse Institute on Soldier Road for the East, and Odyssey Aviation on the Coral Harbour Road for the West. Until 3:00 pm today, you can also drop donations at the Auto Mall location on Shirley Street next to the Embassy of the Republic of Haiti.

We are also asking for financial contributions. We have pilots offering their time and the use of their aircraft, but we need to cover fuel and facility fees. If you can donate, please do so via YouCaring.com.

Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort, Part 2

Trans Island AirwaysIf you want to support our relief effort, the following items will be needed the most:

  • Water
  • Non-Perishable Food Items
  • First Aid Supplies
  • Batteries
  • Flashlights
  • Tarps
  • Garbage (yard) bags
  • Gloves
  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Towels
  • Matches
  • Baby formula
  • Diapers
  • Heavy-duty gloves

Secondary needs include clothing, tools and cleaning supplies. Please check for updates as we prepare to launch this operation once airports across the affected areas reopen.

Donations in kind may be dropped off at the following locations:

Seahorse Institute, Soldier Road – 424-4425
The Kitchen Deli, Shirley Street – 422-4701
Odyssey Aviation, Lynden Pindling International Airport, 702-0200

Please call to ensure these locations have reopened after the storm.

You can also support our efforts by making a financial contribution towards aviation fuel, airport fees and the like via our crowdfunding page at YouCaring.com.

Contact: Trans Island Airways, (242) 362-4006 or sales@tia.aero.

Press Release

Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort

Trans Island AirwaysTrans Island Airways has announced that relief flights to the islands affected by Hurricane Joaquin will begin as soon as the weather permits and airports reopen.

From their Facebook page: “Acklins, Crooked and Long Island have taken the brunt of Hurricane Joaquin over the past 36 hours, with Rum Cay and San Salvador forecast to be hit tomorrow. Our recovery flights will begin as soon as the airports reopen. Our planes and pilots are standing by to provide first responders quick access to the affected areas. If you are interested in donating funds or assisting us with our recovery efforts please contact us at (242) 362-4006 or at sales@tia.aero.”

If you would like to support this effort, goods such as canned foods or clothing may also be dropped off at the TIA office at the Airport Industrial Park (please contact TIA at 362-4006), or at several locations in eastern New Providence, such as Treasure Cove and the Kitchen Deli on Shirley Street (please contact Diana Cuevas Roberts at 422-4701), or on Deals Heights off Eastern Road (please contact Stephen Aranha at 465-7997).

For updates on Hurricane Joaquin, please check the National Hurricane Center’s website at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/.

Please stay safe!


Emergency Services Contact Numbers:

MEDICAL SUPPORT

  • AAS Lifeflight (Air Ambulance)
    Tel. (242) 377-1606 or (242) 323-2186
  • MED EVAC
    Tel. (242) 322-2881
  • DOCTORS HOSPITAL AMBULANCE SERVICES
    Tel. (242) 302-4747
  • ACCIDENT & EMERGENCY (PMH)
    Tel. (242) 326-7014
  • BAHAMAS HYPERBARIC CENTER
    Tel. (242) 362-5765 OR (242) 422-2434
  • PMH HOSPITAL
    Tel. (242) 322-2861
  • NATIONAL EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES
    Tel. 911, 919, (242) 323-2586
  • RED CROSS
    Tel. (242) 323-7370

UTILITIES

  • WATER AND SEWERAGE
    Tel. (242) 325-0505 or (242) 325-4504 (24 hours)
  • BEC POWER OUTAGE
    Tel. (242) 323-5561/4
  • BTC TELEPHONE REPAIRS
    Tel. (242) 225-5282

PROTECTION

  • POLICE
    Tel. 911, 919, (242) 322-4444
  • CRIME STOPPERS
    Tel. (242) 328-8477
  • FIRE
    Tel. 919

ABUSE SUPPORT

  • THE CRISIS CENTRE
    Tel. (242) 328-0922
  • CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE
    Tel. (242) 322-2763
  • SOCIAL SERVICES
    Tel. (242) 326-0526

RESCUE SERVICES

  • BASRA
    Tel. (242) 325-8864, (242) 322-741, (242) 727-4888, (242) 359-4888
  • NEMA
    Tel. (242) 322-6081

Consequences of Losing the Supermajority

With the resignation of Andre Rollins (MP Fort Charlotte) from the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), which follows on the footsteps of the resignation of Greg Moss (MP Marco City) from the same, the governing party has lost its supermajority in the House of Assembly. Considering that the party only received 48.7% of the popular vote in the last election, that may be a democratic improvement in the composition of Parliament, but it does constitute one fundamental challenge: the PLP MPs can no longer pass Constitutional Amendment Bills without the support of opposition or independent members. Let us remember that four of them are currently “stuck in committee” in the House.

One way out of this dilemma for the PLP would be to replace the non-voting Speaker Kendal Major (MP Garden Hills) with an independent or opposition MP as Speaker of the House. This would, given the current count, restore the PLP’s supermajority. However, this may only be a temporary solution, for many Bahamians have long suspected – and these suspicions are growing daily – that Renward Wells (MP Bamboo Town) is pondering a move similar to Moss and Rollins. If he resigned, too, the PLP’s supermajority would be history regardless.

If the Prime Minister is serious about gender equality, and serious about constructing his legacy as the man who brought about constitutional reform to this effect, now may be the time to make this constitutional reform effort truly non-partisan. This would require him and the rest of the PLP to engage in a genuine conversation with the opposition; this would require them to take seriously the flaws which have been pointed out in the existing draft bills. This could potentially make the bills – and thus his legacy – stronger. This would also require him to apologise.

Perry Christie is, after all, the man who led the charge against constitutional reform for gender equality in 2002. The bills now are not new, they are but the reheated, toted lunch in a Styrofoam container of what he campaigned against back then. Right now, his legacy is that of the man who blocked gender equality by sabotaging a referendum. He needs to swallow his pride, admit his mistake, apologise to all those who were alienated by his actions in 2002. Then, and only then, could he pave the way for reconciling divided parties on this issue, and he could build a legacy of a man not ashamed to admit to and correct his mistakes.

However, I suspect that the proposed Constitutional Amendment Bills have always been less about gender equality and more about legacy building. I fear that stubborn pride may blind the Prime Minister to see the above as a viable option. This leaves one more scenario for gender equality during his current term: forget about it. This might leave his pride intact, and in his imagination it may not even negatively affect his legacy, which at this time primarily exists in his imagination anyway. This will, however, continue to treat women as second-class citizens, signalling to the rest of the world that the Bahamas is not yet ready to join it in the twenty-first century.

Don’t Limit my Minecraft

This article is a contribution by my son, Zachary Aranha, a sixth grade student at Summit Academy (Bahamas), who decided to make a written argument for more computer time.

Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Why would someone make an argument about video games?” Some parents don’t allow their kids to play video games during the week. Well, you should know all the facts before your opinion is set in stone. For example, did you know that kids who play video games, such as Minecraft, do better in “thinking” and active jobs? (P. Trunk, Kids Who Play Video Games Do Better In Their Careers.)

You probably want to hear about the game. Here it is. Minecraft is a computer game about breaking and placing blocks, exploring, and surviving. The only combat is in swords and bows, with no guns at all. Compared to most shooting games, it is far less violent. People can play together on servers and alone on single player.

First of all, Minecraft is appropriate. The only form of violence is self-defence. The Entertainment Software Rating Board, a company that rates video games, has workers to play and rate video games. Minecraft is Everyone 10+, which makes sense. Research shows video games like Minecraft improve skills like hand-to-eye coordination and strategic thinking.

Some people may say Minecraft is a bad influence on kids, or that it has bad ideas involved. They, to put it mildly, are wrong. Minecraft teaches cooperation, teamwork, and brings family together. Studies show that Minecraft doesn’t decrease academic performance; on the contrary, it can in fact help children struggling with dyslexia. (Kidspot.com.au, Should Kids Be Playing Video Games?)

People may also think that Minecraft is useless. That is also, in all fairness, incorrect. Minecraft has positive effects on symptoms of diseases. For example, playing video games helps patients who suffer from diseases such as Parkinson’s, by lessening the twitching. (M. Vila, 7 Reasons Why Your Kids Should Play Video Games.) A deep study also showed that playing video games can cause “flow”, the highest possible form of learning. (P. Trunk.)

So, as you can see, Minecraft is good for everyone, from diseased to demented. Not only does it improve school performance, but it teaches elements of life that you will need in the future. Lastly, and I hope you’ll agree, is that when families play together, they come closer and become more friendly toward everyone! (M. Vila.) Many days, many months, and many years have gone into the research I have used. So, be thankful for the scientists’ studies and be glad they will always study for every situation.

What we haven’t learnt from Burma Road

[This paper was part of a panel discussion hosted by the School of English Studies at the College of the Bahamas and the Bahamas Historical Society as part of the Critical Caribbean Symposium Series on June 1, 2015.]

In tonight’s paper, I am going to look at some of the economic realities of 1942 that caused Bahamian workers to protest in what would become known as the Burma Road Riot. I am also going to look at some economic realities in the present-day Bahamas based on various documents compiled over the past five years. This might allow us to rethink the place that Burma Road holds in our national narrative.

The prevailing theme in this narrative is to interpret the Burma Road Riot as the first manifestation of a political consciousness amongst the Bahamian masses that then directly lead to, practically causing, the formation of the Progressive Liberal Party eleven years later, “Majority Rule” twenty-five years later, and independence thirty-one years later. On the other hand, a competing if marginalised interpretation sees the events of May and June 1942 as a labour unrest caused by dire economic stress, which was “later mythicized and used as a ‘heroic movement’ by the blacks, when a political movement had finally started.” (Gail Saunders, Bahamian Society after Emancipation, p. 151.)

Even proponents of the former interpretation, though, admit that, whether first spark or not, “time, and the remarkable foresight, courage, and initiative of a few dedicated members of that majority were all that were required to crystallize this awareness into a mighty political force.” (Doris Johnson, The Quiet Revolution in the Bahamas, p. 27.) Furthermore, these words by Doris Johnson stem from a time when she herself still stood to gain political capital from the mythification of Burma Road. On the other hand, H. M. Taylor, well past his political prime, was more cautious about ascribing too much importance to Burma Road, merely saying, “The bread and butter questions caused the riot. There was very little public opinion on matters of national importance among the masses before the rise of the PLP in 1953.” (Henry M. Taylor, My Political Memoirs, p. 78.)

So, about bread and butter: in 1936, the minimum wage for unskilled labour was set at four shillings a day, or twenty shillings, that is one pound, a week. In 1938, the year before the outbreak World War II, the cost of living in New Providence was estimated to be nineteen shillings a week. Minimum wage would have just paid the bills. However, with the war came heightened inflation, caused by a variety of factors, such as the militarisation of industry as well as the loss of existing and the reallocation of remaining shipping capacities. By 1942, the year after the United States of America got drawn into the war, the cost of living is estimated to have increased by more than 50% compared to the 1938 figures. A sample price list, though not representative of a person’s weekly needs, comparing 1938 and 1942 shows these prices to have increased – on average – by 96.6%. It is clear that minimum wage no longer amounted to a living wage.

When the so-called “Project” – a combined effort by the American and metropolitan British governments, locally handled by the colonial Bahamian government – was announced, it was hoped that Bahamian workers, perhaps as many as a couple of thousand, would be given an opportunity to earn American wages. Instead, the Bahamian government negotiated that they be paid at the local minimum wage rate. Ostensibly, this was done to protect Bahamian employers from having to compete with “the Project.” As a result, Bahamian workers on “the Project” were paid four shillings a day, instead of the hoped for fifteen to twenty this kind of labour would have paid in the United States.

The role of the white American employees of the Pleasantville Corporation is not entirely clear. They are mostly described as “foreman,” thus by definition not doing the exact same work, or at least not playing the exact same role or bearing the exact same responsibility as the Bahamian workers on “the Project.” They were housed at the still segregated British Colonial Hotel, so there would not have been more than a couple of hundred. Various contemporary commentators as well as present-day authors have reported very different rates of pay for these Americans. With eight shillings at the low end, or forty shillings at the high end, they were thus earning anywhere between two to ten times as much as the Bahamian workers, and, being housed in a hotel, did not have to worry about rent.

However, what is also important to note – and this emphasises the importance of bread and butter – is that after the riots, workers settled for a 25% increase plus a free lunch. Thus, they were now being paid five shillings a day – still significantly less than their American counterparts, and still less than a living wage, thus presumably making the free lunch the most important meal of the day.

Regardless of whether this was the alleged watershed moment in Bahamian racial and political consciousness or merely a spontaneous poverty riot, its results fell short of rectifying both the immediate problem as well as addressing the underlying causes. The Russell Commission, which was appointed in the aftermath of the events, and whose findings were dismissed by the Bay Street controlled House of Assembly, for instance, recognised the systemic social injustices which characterise the Bahamas and recommended, amongst other things, the adjustment of regressive import duties and the consideration of a more progressive income tax.

Fast forward to the present: regardless of whether Burma Road was a watershed moment in Bahamian racial and political consciousness or merely a spontaneous poverty riot later mythicised and exploited for political ends, the systemic social injustices remain. We have yet to discuss a progressive tax reform, and the only adjustment to the regressive import duties made, paved the way for the new and über-regressive value-added tax (VAT) regime. A couple of months ago, at the funeral of a Bahamian lady who had placed great hopes in the political reforms of the 1960s and 1970s, the eulogy concluded with the following words: “She never understood why we replaced one set of self-serving tyrants with another set of the same.”

Allow me to demonstrate how this plays out in terms of wages compared to cost-of-living. 1942’s minimum wage of twenty shillings (or one pound) a week was then the equivalent of $4.04, with the cost of living being upward of $6 a week. We are now discussing increasing the minimum wage, which currently stands at $150 a week – or $7,800 per annum. A look at the 2010 census will show that 5.8% of Bahamian households, more than half of them consisting of two or more persons, have to survive on less than $5,000 a year. An additional 7% of households, more than two thirds of them consisting of two or more persons, have to survive on less than $10,000 a year. As household incomes increase, so does the household size suggesting that a great many Bahamians still live very precariously, often with less-than-minimum wage available to feed each member of the household.

The 2013 Household Expenditure Survey, conducted by the Bahamas Department of Statistics with the “support of the Inter-American Development Bank” suggests that 12.5% of Bahamian residents live below the poverty line. In contrast, figures presented by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce during their campaign against VAT, demonstrated that even the “average” Bahamian household, pre-VAT, could not make ends meet.

The 2013 Household Expenditure Survey and its supporting IDB personnel suggest that the poverty line in the Bahamas is $11.64 a day, of which $3.82 a day are earmarked for a “balanced low-cost diet of 2,400 kilocalories a day,” leaving $7.82 a day for “essential non-food needs (clothing and footwear, housing, education, health, transportation, etc.).” Minimum wage then, which translates into an available $21.37 a day, should be more than sufficient to keep a single person above the poverty line; however, reading between the lines and numbers of the Chamber of Commerce’s report, a living wage in last year’s pre-VAT Bahamas should have been closer to approximately $15,000 per capita per annum.

Never trust any statistics that you have not manipulated yourself. However, I am not sure how to survive on these IDB figures without supplementing one’s diet by hunting and gathering, or begging for a lot of other necessities and services – in which case the Household Expenditure Survey approach is flawed for it fails to take charity received into consideration.

In 1946, the Rev. H. H. Brown during a widely noted sermon expressed concern that the government had failed to learn the lesson of the riot, and further warned the powers that be that Burma Road would “seem pale and insignificant in comparison with its successor.”

I posit that, if we continue to look at Burma Road as merely the beginning, whether mythical or real, of a development that was in any way completed, finished, in 1967 or in 1973, we have still not learnt our lesson. As a nation, we like to pride ourselves with having the third-highest GDP per capita of any independent nation in the western hemisphere, but we fail to acknowledge that GDP per capita does not feed the nation if this goes hand in hand with the second highest income inequality of the western hemisphere. If we fail to learn this lesson, then Burma Road will indeed seem pale and insignificant in comparison with its successor.