Hurricane Irene hit the Bahamas as a Category 3 storm, affecting all inhabited islands to various degrees from 23rd to 26th August 2011. Hurricane force winds extended outwards up to 70 miles from the centre and tropical storm force winds extended outward up to 290 miles from the centre. The storm surge raised water levels as much as 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels over the central and north-western Bahamas.
Whilst the Bahamas is a country with high GDP, inequities are clear in certain areas, affecting mostly older persons, people of poor socio-economic status, and immigrants, many of whom are illegal. These groups live in a number of vulnerable communities with poor housing infrastructure, no toilet facilities, no running water and crowded living conditions. The illegal immigrants are mainly from Haiti and their population is estimated at 100,000, concentrated on the islands of Abaco, New Providence and Eleuthera.
The Princes Margaret Hospital in Nassau, a hospital of 400 beds, is the only heath facility providing tertiary care. The hospital structure was already weakened by a lack of sustained maintenance.
Despite no deaths being reported and few major injuries, the damage and disruption to both public health and environmental health were more significant than initially thought. The following are main concerns:
PAHO/WHO deployed a team of six (6) persons from the Regional Response Team to complement the PAHO/WHO Bahamas Representation in providing support to the Government of The Bahamas in their response to Hurricane Irene. The team members were:
The team participated in:
Grosvenor Medical Centre, off Shirley Street, Nassau, Bahamas