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Bahamian bonefish destinations smashed by Hurricane Joaquin

Bahamian bonefish destinations smashed by Hurricane Joaquin

Above: Devastation at Gibson's Restaurant.

A 120mph hurricane has ripped across the southern Bahamas, devastating many small villages in its wake, particulary on the well-known sportfishing destinations of Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Island, Cat Island and San Salvador.

In scenes reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina's effect on New Orleans, the storm of Saturday, October 3 ripped roofs from homes, flooded main roads and farms, contaminated wells for drinking water and has forced the closure of Acklins and Crooked Islands airports, which are under water, further hampering efforts at rescue and relief.

Aerial photographs show a barge washed up on shore, and a 790-foot US-registered cargo ship is still missing, despite extensive US coast guard searches.

Retrieving a flats skiff from the rubble.

Many fly fishers will be acquainted with the out islands of the Bahamas for the quality of the bonefishing they provide on extensive sandy flats but, ever susceptible to autumn hurricanes, Joaquin has torn right through the heart of this peaceful, beautiful bonefisher's paradise.

Blown apart: harbour front house.

When a hurricane hits a tropical island, the high speed winds can cause severe damage, but it's the high water tides that, driven by the wind, cause most damage, innundating the low lying coral islands. In Joaquin's wake, a church on Albert town, Long Island has been levelled, houses have been torn apart, roads have been flooded and bridges washed away. Acklins Lovely Bay has been wiped out. On Crooked Island, property owner Andrew Mactaggart, who is based on nearby Abaco island and who has contact with the marooned islanders, reports: "The entire village of Landrail Point and surrounding area has been devastated, most houses badly damaged, many destroyed, and some have just washed away. Residents are without food, power or shelter. Instead of blowing through in a couple of hours as normal, Joaquin stayed over Landrail Point for 36 hours, during which time a surge of water ten feet deep flooded the village. Woody Gibson survived by pushing his family (two under three-year olds and his mother, who only has one leg) into the rafters of his house.

Local guide, Michael Carroll, spent 17 hours in his small boat with his family after his house was flooded. He tied it to his house and was tossed around "like a cork" for all that time.

"There is hardly a local house standing or habitable. Pittstown (a bonefish lodge a few miles further up the coast - Ed.) has gone. There is a long list of things required, water, food, tarpaulines for shelter, even shelters, propane for cooking and boiling water, toilet paper, etc", he said. A coalition of international government agencies, nonprofit groups and private citizens has been formed to deliver relief in the aftermath of Joaquin. Mr Mactaggart adds "these people cannot just rely on the government".

Landrail Point church.

Mark Bowler, editor of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying, who has made numerous trips to Acklins and Crooked Island, particularly Landrail Point said, "I was shocked to hear of the news, I would count many of the guides in those areas of the Bahamas as friends, but whoever visits gets subsumed quickly into the Bahamian way of life, and soon gets to know all the locals and their families, too. My thoughts are with them at this desperate time. I've introduced many anglers to this area, who will have enjoyed a fantastic experience on these islands, but they will also understand now how vulnerable the islands are to wind and high-water damage, and the devastation this hurricane will have brought with it".
A disaster fund has been set up by Bob Allen, who has also been visiting Crooked Island for the past 15 years. He writes, "Like many visitors we try to help when help is needed. And help has never been needed as much as now. Elderly people we know are stranded, their homes cut off from the airport, where food and water are coming in.

"The situation is grave. Funds will be used to pay for airplane fuel, food, water and medicines. Also, satellite phones and generators. Power and communications will be out for months."

Donations, which will go directly to the relief, can be made at: www.gofundme.com/ck5m9t4g

These funds will be administered by Bob Allen himself.

Contributions to an emergency relief fund can be made at: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/molly-mactaggart

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