KEY WEST (CBSMiami/FKNB) – Nine Royal Bahamas Defence Force vessels are departing Key West Friday night and returning to the Bahamas with one ship carrying relief supplies donated by Florida Keys residents and businesses for Bahamians affected by Hurricane Matthew.
Pallets stacked high with supplies collected from around the Keys were loaded Friday afternoon at the U.S. Navy's Truman Harbor pier in Key West, where the vessels took refuge from Matthew earlier this week.
"In less than 24 hours we've gathered over 25,000 bottles of water, thousands of diapers -- there's food, there's tools, there's all types of stuff -- to get to the Bahamians," said Chuck Lindsey, city manager of the Middle Keys' Marathon, who coordinated the collection effort.
Lt. Commander Carlon Bethell of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force said the supplies would be distributed quickly to residents of the Bahamian islands most severely affected by the hurricane.
"The community here in the Florida Keys has been so kind and generous," said Bethell. "All the supplies that have been loaded today will be taken to NEMA, the National Emergency Management agency, and they will distribute the supplies to all the islands as needed."
The Florida Keys and Bahamas have a historic bond, with many Keys families descended from residents of the nearby island nation.
Key West was the only Atlantic Ocean-front city in Florida that was not under a tropical cyclone watch or warning due to Hurricane Matthew.
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