A Bahamian family that lost everything in hurricane Dorian’s destructive path arrived in the Okanagan late Tuesday night.
The efforts involved in getting them to B.C. were complicated but successful, thanks to a Kelowna man who knows the family well.
And by complicated, it’s exactly that.
“We met Dexter and his family while they were working at my family’s bar down there,” Mike Carter said after Dexter Ferguson, his wife Bridgenna and their son, Dexter Junior, landed at Kelowna International Airport.
“When the hurricane hit, and we realized the devastation of it all, I started going through my phone book and trying to text everybody to see if everyone was safe,” said Carter.
“ was one of the first people to respond that he was safe, but he had lost his house. So we stayed in contact after that, and, as the situation worsened, we realized that it was a very bad situation, and then started our relief efforts to get him out off the island, which turned out to be a very hard situation.”
WATCH BELOW: extended interview with Mike Carter of Kelowna
Carter said the original plan was to ferry the Fergusons to Nassau, which is south of Freeport, then fly them to Canada from there.
“Which seemed like an easy idea at the time,” said Carter, “because they were going to resume ferry service between the two islands. But we didn’t anticipate that there was about 10,000 other people that wanted to get off the island at the same time.
“So there was this mass panic that almost turned into a riot as people tried to leave the island.”
According to Carter, the ferry shut down service, so he then started randomly phoning citizens in Nassau until he found a woman named Rosie. She, in turn, contacted a boat captain and a boat owner.
“She got those two people together and actually loaned us part of her life savings to fund the gas money. She coordinated that and sent them on their way to Freeport.”
Carter said coordinating the pick-up went like this:
Dexter and his family to walked to a dock where there was nobody around. They used their cellphone service to ping a GPS coordinate, which he sent to Carter, who then forwarded it to Rose, who then sent it to the boat captain.
“We set up this sort of clandestine operation to pick them up,” said Carter, “and it magically worked out.”
Notably, Carter said he called so many people in Nassau that Telus shut down his service because they thought it was fraud. He said Telus quickly rectified his service upon learning why he was calling Nassau so much.
WATCH BELOW: Extended interview with Dexter Ferguson
Meanwhile, Dexter Ferguson said he’s grateful to be in Canada.
“I feel just thankful for right now to be here safely,” said Ferguson. “I’m thankful for good friends who helped me because, right now, back home is very, very devastated.
“Just the simple things in life are inaccessible right now. Simple things like clean drinking water, a shower, food . . . just the simple things. I just feel real thankful to be here right now.”
Asked to describe the scene, Ferguson said “a lot of peoples’ homes have been knocked flat. A lot of people have nowhere to stay. A lot of people can’t get clean clothes, nothing to eat, nothing to drink.
“A lot of people are just suffering. They just…it’s really just depressing. That’s the best way I can describe it.”
WATCH BELOW: Extended interview with Bridgenna Ferguson
Bridgenna Ferguson echoed her husband’s comments.
“I don’t know how to describe it; it just felt like a relief — away from all the chaos, away from all the madness,” said Bridgenna Ferguson. “It’s a sigh of relief.”
She added the past few days haven’t been easy, ranging from a home filled with mold to long lineups for water.
“Water has really been hard to come by and the bit of funds or means that you have, even if you have some funds, it’s hard for you to get water because the lines are so long.
“The lines really are long, and then we’re in darkness, so we’re on curfew.”
WATCH BELOW: Hurricane Dorian: BC rescue crews join grim search for dead
As for being in Canada, Bridgenna said “to leave somewhere you’ve been all your life to come somewhere else, it’s hard, too. But when you have a child, you have to think about those things and what’s best.”
While Carter is happy the Fergusons are somewhere safe, he said the relief effort in the Bahamas will take months.
“My family that still lives on the island is helping coordinate the relief effort of everything right now,” said Carter. “It’s starting to slowly get better, but I mean this is going to be months of severe reconstruction effort.
“It is a very devastating situation and ongoing, so our efforts are not stopping here. We’re trying to bring more and more people here on a temporary basis. These are proud Bahamians that want to get back to their country, but we need to get some more people off the island.
“There’s still people that are struggling; there’s still no running water, still no power, food and water are very, very short, there’s still a risk of cholera outbreak. It is a very dangerous situation and it still needs to be in the forefront of the media right now that we get relief efforts down there and bring more people to Canada to safety.”
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