Cleanup resumes in Bahamas as Humberto swirls away

Destroyed boats are pushed up against the pier in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in Treasure Cay on Abaco island, Bahamas. (File/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP)
Updated 15 September 2019

Cleanup resumes in Bahamas as Humberto swirls away

  • The death toll from the hurricane stands at 50 and the number of missing at an alarming 1,300 people
  • Late Saturday night the storm was located about 137 km north of Great Abaco Island

MCLEAN’S TOWN, Bahamas: Jeffrey Roberts lifted a mustard-yellow curtain from the ground as he looked for passports and other documents at the site where his family’s home once stood in Grand Bahama.
He then moved the cloth aside, picked up a pair of old, rusty pliers, and continued his search.
“We got to take what God gives us,” Roberts said, in reference to Tropical Storm Humberto, which narrowly missed the island over the weekend as it continued on its northward trajectory well offshore of Florida’s east coast.
By late Saturday night, the US National Hurricane Center said the storm was located about 85 miles (137 kilometers) north of Great Abaco Island and was moving 6 mph (9 kph) north-northwest with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (97 kph). 
The storm briefly shuttered a couple of small airports, sent people in damaged homes to seek shelter and threatened to interrupt the distribution of sorely needed supplies including food and water.
As the storm barely passed the northern Bahamas, however, Roberts and others were already returning to the task at hand: Resuming their cleanup and recovery efforts in communities devastated by Hurricane Dorian two weeks ago.
On Saturday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres visited the island of Great Abaco to support humanitarian efforts in the wake of the storm that left thousands in need of food, water and shelter.
“Hurricane Dorian has been classified as Category 5. I think it’s Category Hell,” said the secretary-general, adding he was horrified by the “level of systematic devastation.”
The death toll from the hurricane stands at 50 and the number of missing at an alarming 1,300 people, although officials caution the list is preliminary and many people could just be unable to connect with loved ones.
Meanwhile, detritus was piled high as Bahamians attempted to continue salvaging what was left behind.
On Saturday, Patrice Higgs stood barefoot in her backyard with grey mud caked on her feet. She stared listlessly at the horizon as she occasionally pointed at some of her belongings that remained tangled in the debris and out of reach, including a cream-colored loveseat.?
She confided that she lost five relatives to Dorian.
“My sister, my niece, my nephew, my aunty and my cousin,” she said, as dark clouds threatening rain still hung overhead.
The couple then took a break and sat outside as they watched a neighbor, Cecil Leathen, pry his boat out of fallen trees with the help of a backhoe operated by yet another neighbor.
Friends nestled a soggy couch cushion between the backhoe and the boat’s motor to protect it as they successfully pushed it onto a trailer.
Then, Leathen raised his right fist into the air in celebration.
“It takes some time,” he said. “But we’ll get it back together.”


UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

Updated 39 min 46 sec ago

UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

  • Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year
  • SOAS said that it had taken short term action to reduce costs

LONDON: A UK university specializing in the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East has been forced to slash costs and implement drastic staff cuts after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic exacerbated its financial problems.
Staff at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, said they feared that management was cutting costs to make the college an attractive takeover target for an overseas institution or one of its London rivals, UK newspaper the Guardian reported.
Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year.
The effects of the pandemic on student recruitment meant “a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the school’s ability to continue as a going concern” over the next 12 months, SOAS’s auditors warned.
One academic at SOAS told the Guardian that the college’s senior managers had “been unable to make significant changes over the last few years, and now it has ended in a big crisis. This is a serious failure of management.”
Its senior academics were ordered to identify staff cuts that were to be submitted on Friday, and departments were asked to balance their budgets while expecting a 50 percent drop in new international students, the report said.
SOAS’s International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies Center, which provides courses to international students, has reportedly been told to make so many cuts that it will effectively disappear, along with its 55 staff.
The college’s highly regarded international development department, which is ranked eighth in the world, will also suffer from major cuts. Its famed anthropology and sociology department is likely to lose between a third and half of its academic staff.
“I think people are in shock,” a staff member said. “This all happened while we are still coping with COVID-19.”
SOAS released a statement on Friday saying the coronavirus pandemic had affected all British universities and that it was “taking decisive action now so that we can continue to ensure we provide an excellent student experience to our new and returning students.”
It acknowledged that although its “accounts show that SOAS has already taken steps to reduce its deficit position,” the “impact of COVID-19 has put finances across the HE sector under even greater pressure than before.”
It added that it had taken short term action to reduce costs including “pausing capital spend, line by line scrutiny of non-pay budgets” and reducing the use of building space in the Bloomsbury area in London, outside its core campus.
SOAS also said that additional proposals for change were being considered and would be implemented ahead of the start of the new academic year in September. 
SOAS, University of London, has been ranked in the UK’s top 20 universities for Arts and Humanities, according to the 2020 Times Higher Education World University Ranking.
The rankings place SOAS 13th in the UK and 57th in the world.