In some cases, it took weeks before supplies reached the hardest hit areas of the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian spent more than a day spinning over islands, ripping away roofs, inundating ground floors and taking lives.
Lydia Ruth Hill, who is the ninth generation of her family to live on Abaco, evacuated her parent’s coastal home but watched it disintegrate over the next day.
She spoke to the Sun by cellphone Thursday night.
“From my brother’s apartment, we can see my parent’s house,” she said. “From the window, we watched the roof come off. My dad has a 42-foot boat and we saw (the storm) overturn it — it’s now 250 feet away from the water.”
Two of her relatives are missing, cousins of her father.
The relatives, an elderly brother and sister, “were living on Front Street of Abaco — that doesn’t even exist anymore,” Hill said. “Anyone who has been found has just been bodies. That area is about a mile from The Mudd and Peas.”
Not that any area was spared, but The Mudd was virtually obliterated. Hundreds of homes were swept away or crushed by shipping cargo containers pushed by storm surge into the community.
Nobody has any idea what the death toll is for The Mudd.
Officially, the Bahamian death toll is 61 with about 800 missing — but locals suggest the actual death toll is more than 1,000, perhaps 1,500.
Up from The Mudd and Peas is where Hill and others opened an emergency supply center in a church. The church, New Vision International, is heavily damaged but usable — with donations set up in the sanctuary.
Hill’s group has named itself Abaco Hands and Feet, based on the fact they are helping each other in some very basic ways.
It is one place where donations from Agape Flights, based in Venice, is going. Coming in through its planes, Agape has teamed up with Mission of Hope, which has its ship, True North, docked in Abaco.
Together, they are moving needed donations in and around the island.
Mission of Hope has taken more than 16,500 pounds of Agape donations by sea; Convoy of Hope has transported 12,000 pounds of Agape donations by sea to the Bahamas.
Between the ships and its own aircraft, Agape has delivered more than 48,500 pounds of donated relief supplies.
“People need to stay involved or get involved,” said TJ Heitz, of Mission of Hope.
Heitz and his group were among the first disaster relief personnel to arrive after Hurricane Dorian.
“Prayer is a big thing. Continue to send water, food. That’s going to become an issue as some of these organizations start to pull out.”
The time before they were able to show up was critical — and deadly — for people in Marsh Harbour and other areas on Abaco.
“Our first 48 hours was about survival,” Hill said.
But she has appreciated the aid that has arrived.
First, it came from other Bahama islands that weren’t as affected.
She said the people of Abaco had helped other islands following vicious storms in the past. This time, those islanders reciprocated.
Then it came from Agape, Mission of Hope and other groups. But it has yet to come from the government, she said.
Largely, Abaco residents remain on their own. One store opened with few supplies and high prices, but she doesn’t mind.
Power is barely available. People can spend $200 for generator fuel that runs a few hours in the morning and evening but most people are simply going without.
So she has the work of Abaco Hands and Feet.
“Miss Lydia has been wonderful. I’ve never met anyone like her. I’ve never met no one with her spirit,” volunteer Mark Pierre said.
Pierre has been left homeless and emotionally wrecked by the storm. He appreciates feeling like he has a purpose, working “with a good heart” for the Lord, he said.
He has only praise for Hill.
“I’ve never seen anyone like her.”
“We’re all kind of like family now. Close to 40 of us,” Hill said. “We realized the need for a shelter, so we opened a shelter.”
Agape Flights put out a new list for supplies on Friday, seeking “immediate needs” that must be collected by 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17. It includes macaroni and cheese dry mix in a box; canned soups; canned beef; Spam; tuna in water; canned sardines in tomato juice or oil; Vienna sausages; ramen noodles in cups; and Carnation evaporated milk.
Collection hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
The group asks people donating to sort and box similar items together.
The items will be going to another hard hit area: Freeport.
“Because of (the Agape) ministry, because of their work, we were able to get some things to some people to make their lives a little bit better,” said Ken Lane, a minister with Luceyan Presbyterian Church in Freeport.
People appreciate the Venice organization.
“I’ve been so thankful for how Agape has answered our needs when we reached out to them. How they’ve responded faithfully, bringing supplies — everything we’ve needed,” said Natalie Pierson, praise and worship team member of Luceyan Presbyterian Church.