Thousands in Bahamas struggle to find work after Dorian

Thousands of Bahamians struggle to find work as savings slip after Hurricane Dorian

FREEPORT, Bahamas -- Jobs are scarce, savings are running low and money is barely trickling in.

"People say, 'You're going to be all right,' but those are mere words," said Edna Gelin, who was the manager of a natural hair store in Freeport on Grand Bahama island that has been closed since being badly damaged by the storm. "It's going to be bad because a lot of businesses were destroyed."

As the northwestern Bahamas struggles to recover from Dorian, residents braced for newly formed Tropical Storm Humberto, which was expected to hit two islands over the weekend that were already battered by Dorian. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm was passing just east of Great Abaco island early Saturday and would bring heavy rains to the northwestern Bahamas.

Carl Swann, an IT technician from Abaco, recently typed up his resume on his cellphone after hearing about several job leads in the capital, Nassau: assistant engineer, security guard and electronic salesman. However, he hasn't secured any interviews yet and worries about his finances because he has nowhere to go and has been staying at a hotel for two weeks.

"I'm wasting my money," he said.

"That will be a big relief," Labor Minister Dion Foulkes recently told reporters. "We'd like to stabilize as many families as we can as quick as possible."

He also said the government would soon announce new measures to help the nearly 5,000 people who were evacuated to New Providence, the most populous island in the Bahamas, from Grand Bahama and the Abaco islands after Dorian.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said ahead of a weekend visit to the Bahamas that more than three-quarters of all buildings were destroyed by the hurricane.

"Hospitals are either in ruins, or overwhelmed. Schools turned into rubble," Guterres said in a statement. "Thousands of people will continue to need help with food, water and shelter. Many more facing of course the uncertainties future after losing everything."

The storm, however, has helped a handful of Bahamians. It has created job opportunities for workers such as carpenters, construction crews and people like Edley Edwards, a heavy machinery operator who was clearing debris on a recent afternoon at the eastern end of Grand Bahama, which was hit the hardest by Dorian.

"We'll be busy right straight through," he said. "Just a little pushin' to clear the road."

Before the storm hit, the Bahamas had 32,000 people who were self-employed. Among them was Dewitt Henfield, a baker who operated out of his home.

"I'm a bread man," he said as he stood in a line Friday outside an emergency operations center in Freeport seeking food, water, building supplies and other materials since the storm took everything he owned.

"I have no money. That's why we have to be in lines like these," he said. "We're wondering where our next meal is coming from."

Henfield and many others left unemployed by the storm said it has been hard to find a new job because they no longer have cars or clothes for interviews. The clients they once served are gone, too, added Melon Grant, a beautician who owned a business in Freeport called "Da Best of Da Best."

"Everybody lost their job, so nobody paying to get their hair done," she said as she shook her head. "There's no opportunity after the storm because everywhere is basically damaged. Right now it's just hopeless."