BOONE — Hurricane Dorian brought winds of 185-225 mph, flooding and destruction to the islands of the Bahamas during the first few days of September as the storm stalled over them.
While the High Country saw little to no effects from the event, the Boone-based charity, Samaritan’s Purse, sprung into action by sending tons of supplies on its DC-8 plane as soon as the storm passed, and it was safe to fly. Now, the organization will be making daily trips for the rest of the week to deliver supplies and volunteers.
The first shipment of supplies included “emergency shelter materials, like tarps, and water filtration units,” said Alyssa Benson, media relations coordinator for Samaritan’s Purse. “As what we know develops, we can send a little bit more specific supplies.”
Along with 85 Samaritan’s Purse team members, the necessary supplies for a field hospital was sent as soon as feasible, which is set up in Freeport on the island of Abaco, the island that was hit hardest by the storm. The hospital is now fully operational and accepting parents as of the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 10.
The hospital has enough space to accommodate 40 beds, an emergency room, an operation room, an obstetrical unit and an intensive care unit along with regular triage for patients. Staff onsite will be able to see about 100 patients per day with the help of these resources.
The number of fatalities was 44 as of Monday, Sept. 9, but Benson said that number is likely to grow throughout the coming weeks, as more area can be covered by emergency responders.
“The hardest hit areas have been identified, but a lot of air strips are underwater, so there’s a lot of navigation surrounding how to reach some people who still need assistance,” Benson said.
Of the 85 team members from Samaritan’s Purse that are on the ground, most make up the necessary staff for the field hospital in Free Port. However, there are also teams that are specializing their aid, such as a water sanitation team and shelter coordination team.
“The devastation is incredible and we’re just trying to help as many people as we can as quickly as possible,” said Benson.
Both physical and mental health are concerns in the event of natural disasters, and using data from Hurricane Florence, experts from Appalachian State University have specifically studied the mental health effects that destructive hurricanes cause.
Maggie Sugg, one of these experts, said that the study “found significant increases in suicidal thoughts, anxiety and stress post-hurricane.”
“Other health effects include direct injuries, (such as) flooding deaths and high wind impacts, exposure to molds from flooded buildings, and limited access to drugs and health care that exacerbate current medical conditions,” said Sugg.
Members of the International Red Cross and the World Health Organization are also on the ground in the Bahamas to provide relief as swiftly as possible.
“It’s a pleasure to work alongside other organizations with common goals,” said Benson, noting that international chapters of the Samaritan’s Purse are also sending supplies.
Along with its efforts in the Bahamas, Samaritan’s Purse is also providing aid to the East Coast, which was also a victim in Dorian’s tirade. Supplies and personnel are being sent to Newbern, Wilmington, the barrier islands of the Outer Banks and Myrtle Beach.