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As Storms Worsen, Cruise Industry Steps Up Relief Efforts In Hurricane-Ravaged Bahamas

FREEPORT, GRAND BAHAMA After Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas this week, the need for relief aid is dire. WLRN was on hard-hit Grand Bahama island Friday with crew members of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship ferrying food and water to storm victims.

Dorian was the worst recorded hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas. As a result, cruise ship companies – most of them based in Miami – are partnering with the Bahamian government and NGOs to get more aid more quickly to people like Claudina Swann.

Swann - who lives in Freeport's Hudson Estates neighborhood, where most homes were flooded to their roofs in the hurricane - says Dorian’s monster winds and storm surge nearly swept away her house and her life. She became emotional when food delivered to Freeport Harbour from the Royal Caribbean ship Symphony of the Seas arrived on her street in a church van.

“Because we don’t have water, no light, no food, no nothin’," Swann said, tears welling in her eyes as her family's storm-drenched clothes dried across her lawn, "‘cause the wind and the water of this hurricane, it was the worst, the worst of them all. Trust you me. I've never been through nothing like this in my life.”

Parishioners from St. Jude's Anglican Church in Freeport delivering meals in the hard hit Hudson Estates neighborhood on Friday.
Credit Tim Padgett / WLRN.org
Parishioners from St. Jude's Anglican Church in Freeport delivering meals in the hard hit Hudson Estates neighborhood on Friday.

The Bahamas and the Caribbean islands are vital to the cruise industry’s multi-billion-dollar success. So lines like Royal Caribbean say they’re responding to calls to play a larger role in relief response as storms like Dorian get stronger and more frequent.

“This is, I think, just a part of a very multi-layered relationship that we have with the Caribbean," said Russell Benford, who heads Royal Caribbean’s government relations in the Americas and was at Freeport Harbour coordinating food delivery with Bahamian Senator Katherine Smith and the nonprofit Bahamas Feeding Network.

"And I think when we can connect the needs of a country that’s been devastated by a storm with the resources that we have, I think there are a lot of lessons that can be learned.”

The cruise company delivered more than 10,000 meals to the Freeport area on Friday.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Parishioners from a Freeport church distributed food from Royal Caribbean to Bahamians in hard hit neighborhoods on Friday.
Tim Padgett / WLRN News
Parishioners from a Freeport church distributed food from Royal Caribbean to Bahamians in hard hit neighborhoods on Friday.