Business in San Sal reduced to 'zero' after Joaquin

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October 07, 2015

Business in San Salvador has been virtually reduced to "zero" following Hurricane Joaquin's path of destruction, according to one small business owner. While many businesses bear scars from Joaquin, Sonia Jones' Simply Bahamian souvenir and gift shop, located near San Salvador International Airport, has remained almost miraculously intact.

"Thank God. I thought it would've been gone," she told Guardian Business. "We battened down even though it came right on us. Some people weren't quite prepared," said Jones.

She has owned and operated the shop for five years but now questions how long she, and others fortunate enough to find their businesses in one piece once the storm passed, would be able to stay afloat as the island community stitches itself back together.

"I know that Club Med is closed. They were supposed to open this month but that's not going to happen now so business is like zero," said Jones.

Club Med, one of the driving forces behind the local economy, recently announced that it had pushed back its seasonal opening to December in order to conduct repairs.

Jones states that both her sister and one of her cousins had both lost their homes in the storm, calling the houses "unliveable". Jones, however, said that she was fortunate to only experience mild roof damage.

Hurricane Joaquin battered the southern Bahamas with Category 4 winds over the weekend. Long Island, San Salvador, Rum Cay, Acklins and Crooked Island were among the islands worst impacted by the storm. Early estimates for infrastructural repairs have ranged into the tens of millions, though the true extent of damage has not been pinpointed.
While Jones acknowledged that some people in the impacted islands are now considering moving to New Providence or elsewhere in the archipelago, she believes that many San Salvadorians are simply too cash-strapped to make the move.

"I hope we can [rebuild] pretty soon. I have a son in college and if I don't make any money here then I can't pay the school fees," she said.

Gladstone Major, a San Salvadorian heavy equipment operator, told Guardian Business that his livelihood had been put in peril after Hurricane Joaquin caused extensive and extremely costly damage to his machinery. The loss of local equipment has only exacerbated the need for heavy equipment in rebuilding efforts.

Keith Ferguson told Guardian Business that many of the island's largest employers, including Club Med, Columbus Isle Resort, the Riding Rock Marina and the Sands Hotel, had sustained significant damage. Ferguson believes that it would be a "miracle" if the island's business community had healed enough in time to take advantage of the island's traditionally busy winter season.

"Everybody's got serious damage. There's a lot of damage to most of the businesses here. It's like we're closed down, really."

Ferguson's wife, Kate, owns a scooter rental company in San Salvador. While the company's office and inventory suffered water damage, Ferguson said that the greater fear was finding sustainable business as the winter season approaches.

"We need serious help. We need as much help as possible to get these businesses up and running again. It's too much work to get right back up and running again -- we need boots on the ground.

"With the way it looks, I don't think we'll make the season but I just hope that we get things up and running because the season is when people can make a few dollars. Now nothing's happening," said Ferguson.

Island Administrator Theophilus Cox yesterday said that the island community was holding together well as government and private sector aid flows into San Salvador. Two aid camps have been established on the island providing a more reliable supply of food and water to residents.

With the essentials now being supplied, Cox issued a plea for building supplies to help rebuild homes and businesses. Cox said that he expected most of the roads to be cleared and made accessible within the next two week. Reopening schools on the island, Cox added, is the next priority.

Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian

News date : 10/07/2015    Category : About Bahamians, Business, Home, Nassau Guardian Stories

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