MCLEAN’S TOWN, Bahamas (AP) — Jeffrey Roberts lifted a mustard-yellow curtain from the ground as he looked for passports and other documents at the site where his family’s home once stood in Grand Bahama.
He then moved the cloth aside, picked up a pair of old, rusty pliers, and continued his search.
“We got to take what God gives us,” Roberts said in reference to Tropical Storm Humberto, which narrowly missed the island over the weekend as it continued on its northward trajectory well offshore of Florida’s east coast.
By early Sunday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm was located about 137 miles (220 kilometers) north of Great Abaco Island and was moving at 7 mph (11 kph) north-northwest with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (97 kph).
Weather forecasters said it would likely become a hurricane by Sunday night but would remain far from the Bahamas and the U.S. coast by the time it had intensified to that strength.
The storm briefly shuttered a couple of small airports, sent people in damaged homes to seek shelter and threatened to interrupt the distribution of sorely needed supplies including food and water.
As the storm barely passed the northern Bahamas, however, Roberts and others were already returning to the task at hand: resuming their cleanup and recovery efforts in communities devastated by Hurricane Dorian two weeks ago.
On Saturday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres visited the island of Great Abaco to support humanitarian efforts in the wake of the storm, which left thousands in need of food, water, and shelter.
“Hurricane Dorian has been classified as Category 5. I think it’s Category Hell,” said the secretary-general, adding he was horrified by the “level of systematic devastation.”
The death toll from the hurricane stands at 50 and the number of missing at an alarming 1,300 people, although officials caution the list is preliminary and many people could just be unable to connect with loved ones.
Meanwhile, detritus was piled high as Bahamians attempted to continue salvaging what was left behind.
On Saturday, Patrice Higgs stood barefoot in her backyard with gray mud caked on her feet. She stared listlessly at the horizon as she occasionally pointed at some of her belongings that remained tangled in the debris and out of reach, including a cream-colored loveseat.?
She confided that she lost five relatives to Dorian.
“My sister, my niece, my nephew, my aunty and my cousin,” she said, as dark clouds threatening rain still hung overhead.
The couple then took a break and sat outside as they watched a neighbor, Cecil Leathen, pry his boat out of fallen trees with the help of a backhoe operated by yet another neighbor.
Friends nestled a soggy couch cushion between the backhoe and the boat’s motor to protect it as they successfully pushed it onto a trailer.
Then, Leathen raised his right fist into the air in celebration.
“It takes some time,” he said. “But we’ll get it back together.”