‘They’re going to need a lot of help in response to the hurricane,’ says Executive Director, Samantha Mahfood

CBC News · Posted: Sep 02, 2019 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: 4 hours ago

Even before Hurricane Dorian slammed into Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands in The Bahamas, Samantha Mahfood has been trying to make contact with the principal of a school “that supports kids with different abilities” in the Caribbean nation.

The executive director of Food For The Poor Canada says her calls have not been going through.

“I’ve made a couple of phone calls today to try to reach out to the principal and it doesn’t go through, it just drops,” Mahfood told CBC News on Sunday.

“I’ve sent her an email and I’ve not had a response, so I’m hoping that everybody’s safe.”

Food For The Poor Canada — which provides help with housing, education, health, income generating projects and clean water — has been working with the school for several years.

An extremely powerful, life-threatening Hurricane Dorian reached the Bahamas Sunday afternoon.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Sunday that Dorian made landfall in Elbow Cay at 12:40 p.m. ET. with maximum sustained winds at a monstrous 185 mph (295 kph).

The Hurricane Center said the arrival of the storm poses “a life-threatening situation” with hazards that will cause “extreme destruction.”

“I visited Abaco a few years ago and it was such a small island, so flat, the winds, the rains, the waves, it’s going to be destroyed,” Mahfood said.

“It’s going to need a lot of help in response to the hurricane. It’s going to be devastating.”

‘I can imagine that their homes will be devastated’

Mahfood says Marsh Harbour — where the school of about 200 students is located — is a small, strong community of about 5,000 people.

But she is worried that the school, the only one of its kind on Abaco, will be destroyed in the hurricane.

“A group of those students are Haitian refugees who moved to Abaco after the [2010] earthquake and there is a slum area in Abaco with Haitians,” Mahfood explained.

“I can imagine that their homes will be devastated along with so many others. Compared to the winds, they will not stand up.”

It will be a difficult time specifically for water, which is so necessary for life – Samantha Mahfood, Executive Director Food For The Poor Canada

Late Sunday, authorities in The Bahamas said they were receiving preliminary reports of heavy damages in areas being pounded by the hurricane.

Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, has told local reporters there is a huge amount of damage to property and infrastructure from the hurricane crossing the northwest part of the island archipelago.

Video that was described by Jibrilu as being sent by residents from the island of Abaco on Sunday afternoon showed homes with missing chunks of roofing, downed power lines and smashed and overturned cars. One video, she says, showed floodwaters rushing through the streets of an unidentified town at nearly the height of a car’s roof.

Mahfood says her organization is standing by to bring relief to the affected residents as soon as the all-clear is given.

“We have done some preparation for hurricane season…Scotiabank has purchased 4 million water purification tablets that we will send to an area that’s been affected by a hurricane that doesn’t have access to clean water.”

“It will be a difficult time specifically for water, which is so necessary for life so we will be sending down water tablets.”

How you can help

Mahfood says Food For The Poor Canada is also looking for funds to purchase tarpaulins.

“[These are] for transitional housing or if a roof blows off and you need to cover the house,” Mahfood said.

“We need about $15 to purchase a tarpaulin so that we can help a family get through until they are able to rebuild.”

With files from CBC’s Desmond Brown, Makda Ghebreslassie and The Associated Press