Some Ragged Islanders are refusing to “abandon” the island despite Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ declaration that it is uninhabitable and that the remaining residents should evacuate today.
The island was devastated by Hurricane Irma.
Some who were evacuated ahead of the storm said yesterday they intend to go back within days.
Ragged Island Chief Councillor Demson Nesbitt is among those who plan to stay at Holy Innocence Anglican Church — the only building reportedly left untouched by the Category 5 storm that passed through the southern Bahamas.
“We decided that Ragged Island is going to move forward,” Nesbitt told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
“Minnis said that he wants to evacuate the last 18 people off Ragged Island.
“That means no one is going to be on the island.
“Ragged Island people are a ‘can do’ people. We will always do for ourselves and not wait for the government to step in and do it for us.
“All we need the government to do is restore the water and restore the power and from there, Ragged Island is very fixable.”
He said, “The mail boat is going there with concerned people on Thursday.
“They are going to begin the cleanup and some residents have equipment and they will carry them.”
Nesbitt said his house is without a roof but other than that, most things are in place.
Nesbitt, his girlfriend and his brother all plan to return to the island to live in the church temporarily.
“The church is our hurricane shelter, the Anglican church,” he said.
“Archdeacon [Keith] Cartwright suggested that we clear it out, take all the pews out and turn it into a dormitory.
“This would be for mainly the young men who are going to see how bad things are.
“From there, we will work it out.”
Nesbitt said a fundraising committee and public relations committee was formed on Monday at a meeting for Ragged Islanders.
Amanda Curling, 46, is also refusing to “abandon” the island and plans to return this week as well.
She said she was in Ragged Island on Monday and though she saw a lot of major damage, she believes the island can be rebuilt if people come together.
“Why can’t residents who were there…help with the cleanup?” Curling asked.
“People here, who are descendants from Ragged Island or who were born there are willing to go there to help.
“So I don’t see why we need to leave our island to come to Nassau.
“We aren’t going anywhere. We’re staying and if I have to take the last three weeks vacation I have, I am prepared to go to Ragged Island and stay there.”
Curling said she does not care about the lack of electricity and water.
“I grew up in Ragged Island where my daddy used to have to turn on the generator every night for us and at 11 p.m. the generator got cut off,” she said.
“I know what it is to live without light.”
Curling said her mother, sister, two brothers, niece, nephew and aunt still live in Ragged Island.
She said, “God will protect us as He always [does].
“We will not leave Ragged Island and we will not abandon our people who are still there.”
Erica Wallace, a Ragged Island resident, is in New Providence awaiting the arrival of her fourth child.
She said while she loves her island, she understands that the best thing to do right now is to wait until the island returns to some sense of normalcy before returning.
“I think it can most definitely be rebuilt,” Wallace said.
“I just don’t know how long it will take.
“It is uninhabitable for now, but like they said they’re trying to get it restored.
“We don’t know what kind of sickness is there because of the dead animals.
“They need to clean out the island, but I don’t think it is going to be that long.
“Whenever they fix it, me and my family will go back.”
The roofs of the clinic, school and administrator’s office are gone.
Minnis told The Nassau Guardian that he has “never seen anything like this before”.
Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper said the conditions on Ragged Island are “unhealthy and unsafe” and urged residents to “take the prime minister’s lead on this”.
Minnis said all 18 residents who remained on the island indicated that they have family on New Providence or Exuma, so they will have places to stay.
Between 60 and 70 people were living on the island ahead of Hurricane Irma.