Categorized | National News

Stiff Penalties for Mandatory Evacuation Refusal

One month after Hurricane Dorian ravaged Abaco and Grand Bahama, the government is taking the necessary steps to ensure that evacuation is mandatory before a storm and persons refusing to evacuate will face hefty fines.

The passing of Hurricane Dorian over The Bahamas, specifically Abaco and Grand Bahama served as a wake-up call for the country to not only change how it prepares for storms, but how it responds to storms which are becoming more deadly and frequent.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis in tabling the Disaster Preparedness and Response Amendment Bill said, “After Dorian’s passage it looked like an atomic bomb had exploded in parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama”.

Moving the proposed legislation, Dr. Minnis said the purpose of the bill is to help save lives and to maintain peace and order.

The bill then empowers the prime minister to make certain orders covering a range of activities or prohibitions like evacuation orders, curfews and restrictions of movement in certain places for a period.

“Mr. Speaker, as prime minister I take the safety and protection of the Bahamian people as among my most solemn obligations. How we once prepared for and respond to hurricanes is no longer good enough in this era of super-storms,” Dr. Minnis explained.

“Staying in low lying areas in the path of catastrophic winds and storm surge, or staying in homes not up to standard could lead to tragedy.

“Under these new provisions, where an evacuation order is in effect and residents within the specified area or island have not evacuated, no first responder would have a duty to risk his or her life to rescue or recover any person in the area until the Department of Meteorology gives the all clear that the weather conditions are no longer a threat.”

As laid out in the bill, fines will be levied for those who do not comply with the evacuation order.

“When an evacuation order is in effect, any person within the specified area who refuses, without justifiable cause, to evacuate would commit an offence and be liable to a fine not exceeding $500 or a term of imprisonment of one month, or both,” Dr. Minnis said.

“And where such refusal is likely to imperil the life of another, the fine could be up to $1,000 or three months in prison, or both.”
In his communication in the House of Assembly, Dr. Minnis also expressed concerns about security on the ground in Abaco and said he too is not satisfied.

“The leader of the opposition has raised questions about the security situation in Abaco. He would like to see it improved, as would I, as would all Bahamians and residents,” Dr. Minnis said.

“I told the media last week I was not satisfied with the security situation on the island.

“I instructed the leaders of the police and defence forces to send more officers, which is happening.  I also mentioned it may be necessary for a curfew to be imposed to help preserve safety and law and order.

“Curfews are common around the world to keep order in the aftermath of natural disasters. Yet, the same leader of the opposition who said he wants the security situation improved is now criticizing the idea of a curfew.”

Dr. Raymond King, a 30-year plus veteran of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), has been appointed as deputy commander of the RBDF.

The position calls for him to have oversight of the RBDF’s operations on both Abaco and Grand Bahama post Hurricane Dorian.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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