Dutch personnel arrive in the Bahamas

Approximately 550 Dutch military personnel have arrived in the Bahamas. They have been tasked with providing disaster relief to the population of Abaco, one of the islands hardest hit by Hurricane Dorian. Royal Netherlands Navy ship HNLMS Snellius reached the affected region at 07:00 local time, followed by HNLMS Johan de Witt at 16:00 that afternoon.

The first priority is to gain an understanding of the current situation on the island. For this purpose, some personnel were sent ahead by helicopter and visited a hospital and the port on the island of Abaco. They also met with local authorities and international aid organisations to coordinate where aid is most needed.

Devastation

Hurricane Dorian has destroyed large parts of the Bahamas. The hurricane reached wind speeds of up to 350 kilometres per hour as it crossed the island nation. The category 5 hurricane was active in the region for 12 hours, causing major devastation to Abaco. Hundreds of people are reported missing, houses have been destroyed and the population now faces severe shortages of food and water.

The prime minister of the Bahamas stated that the number of deaths was expected to significantly increase. At present, the official death toll stands at 43. The International Red Cross estimates that at least 70,000 people across the Bahamas are in need of assistance.

“Our main focus for the first day is coordination”, said Commodore Ad van de Sande about the relief effort. “The first servicemen and women have flown to the island by helicopter to take an inventory of what the local population needs most urgently. In the meantime, we are busy making preparations to get our people and our aid supplies on land. This will be our main effort in the coming days.”

Large-scale deployment

The Netherlands Ministry of Defence is deploying 550 Dutch personnel from the navy, army, air force and marechaussee in aid of Disaster Relief Bahamas. A further 50 French and 50 German personnel are also contributing to the relief effort.

In addition to the deployment of its personnel, Defence has also provided materiel. As an amphibious transport ship, HNLMS Johan de Witt is capable of bringing supplies on land through the use of landing craft. HNLMS Snellius is a hydrographic survey vessel that can chart underwater damage and other obstructions in order to make ports on Abaco accessible again.

The ships are also carrying other equipment, such as vehicles with which to transport emergency supplies across the island, construction material and pallets loaded with food and water.

The use of Cougar helicopters from the Royal Netherlands Air Force allows the disaster area to also be assessed from the air. Furthermore, this transport helicopter is ideal for the fast delivery of aid supplies on land.

Assistance

Dutch military personnel are providing assistance at the request of the Bahamas government. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the International Red Cross are responsible for the coordination of this disaster relief effort.