Relief For Battered Bahamas

Bahamians are beginning to recover from the beating they took from Floyd, but repairs to water supplies and downed electricity and telephone service could take weeks, officials warned.

In the meantime, the Royal Bahamas Defense Force and the U.S. Coast Guard brought tons of food, water and plastic sheeting by helicopter and boat to Abaco, Eleuthera, Cat, San Salvador and other heavily damaged islands, said National Disaster Organization coordinator Godwin Blyden.

Nineteen-year-old college student Nikara Brown opened her refrigerator Thursday at the same moment that electricity was restored to her Nassau home. She was killed instantly by the surge and became the second hurricane related fatality. A Freeport man had been swept out to sea during the storm on Tuesday.

Officials were still not sure how many structures were lost or how many people were homeless. Hundreds of wooden homes were flattened, roofless or otherwise damaged in Abaco, Eleuthera and Cat islands, which took direct hits from the storm.

"We're taking care of people's immediate needs so they can have shelter, food and water, but we have to make a more detailed assessment to decide what kind of assistance they need," Blyden said.

Several foreign governments were ready to send supplies but were awaiting word from Nassau, he said.

The Pan American Health Organization sponsored efforts to send generators to island medical clinics without power and engineers to help restore water systems.

With so much standing water, the organization also was studying the need for mosquito eradication to prevent mosquito-borne diseases, said representative Richard Van West Charles.

Tourists began returning to the main islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama, lounging poolside under sunny skies or sipping cocktails in air-conditioned hotel bars. Major hotels were spared significant damage by the storm.

"Considering how quickly we got back to normal, it's clear that between the government and the private sector - things were in place, and it worked," said Robert Sands, general manager of the Nassau Beach Hotel.