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Freeport Sustained Considerable Damage From Hurricane Wilma - January 0-, 2005 – 27: 1
Mr. Rahming questioned why the general public did not take the advice, issued by police before the storm reached landfall, seriously.

Customarily, the brunt of damages the island of Grand Bahama incurs as the result of a hurricane is taken on by the eastern and western ends of the island. Nonetheless, impairments to the Freeport area as a result of Hurricane Wilma were catastrophic, Police Chief Superintendent Basil Rahming said Tuesday.

And, he added, had Hurricane Wilma lazily crawled across the island as Hurricane Jeanne did last year, damages to Freeport would have been more detrimental in comparison to damages Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne combined created last September.

"The damage in the city of Freeport does not seem to be as extensive as damages in the coastal settlements, but there are numbers of houses and business places in Freeport City that have lost their roofs, windows, doors, and sustained general damage," Chief Superintendent Rahming said. "There are a number of utility poles, electrical wires, trees, and billboards that are down throughout the city of Freeport."

Fortunately, he noted, there have been no reports of any loss of life in Freeport. However, he reported, one serious traffic accident occurred in the region during the hurricane period, in which a "large 16-seater bus that was being operated by the Grand Bahama Shipyard overturned on the Fishing Hole Road."

The driver, the lone occupant of the vehicle at the time of the accident, is presently being detained at the Rand Memorial Hospital in stable condition, with several broken bones.

A number of other traffic accidents that occurred throughout Freeport Monday were not serious and involved only minor damage, he said.

Also during the period of the storm, Chief Superintendent Rahming reported, there were a total of five shop-breaking incidents that were brought to the attention of the police.

"Five different business places, including Bahamas Wholesale Agencies and a number of other stores, they were broken into," he said. "One person was arrested. He was caught red-handed in the act of breaking into a store. He is presently in police custody being processed for court."

Several of the Royal Bahamas Police Force's operational facilities were damaged by Hurricane Wilma, Mr. Rahming said.

The Eight Mile Rock Police Station was totalled by a storm surge, forcing police to relocate to Martin Town Primary School during the height of the storm. Once there, a portion of the school's roof was blown off by strong winds. Officers were again compelled to relocate, this time moving to the temporary fire station in the settlement, which they are presently operating from.

The police garage on Peel Street sustained damages to its roof; five police vehicles were damaged; and a number of officers suffered damage to their homes and possessions at the hands of Hurricane Wilma, Mr. Rahming said.

Looking back at the calamity created by the hurricane, Mr. Rahming questioned why the general public did not take the advice, issued by police before the storm reached landfall, seriously.

"We were issuing repeated calls to members of the public, and specifically to those who were living in settlements on the southern coastline of the island, we were emphasizing to them the need for them to evacuate to the hurricane shelters provided for them," he said.

Before the effects of Hurricane Wilma had began being felt, initial police checks found that most hurricane shelters on the island were empty. The only persons present at the shelters were its workers, Mr. Rahming said.

As conditions worsened, he said that police stations began being flooded with calls from residents in need of rescue.

"This is not a good practice," he firmly stated. "What we would like to say to the public, specifically the residents in these coastal communities, in future, should another similar situation occur, please listen to the advice being given by the police. Please take the advice seriously, and also act on the advice. In this way, a lot of suffering and loss could be avoided."

For officers who risked their lives to get residents to shelters, the public may view them as heroes, but Chief Superintendent Rahming says that they were just doing their job.

By JEREMY FRANCIS, Freeport News Reporter