Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay couple who worked, lived in the Bahamas urging donations to disaster relief

A couple from Thunder Bay, Ont., who spent several years living and working in the Bahamas, says they're relieved friends and former colleagues appear to be safe but the level of destruction left by Hurricane Dorian has been hard to watch.

Steven and Rhonda Bill were teachers in the island nation which saw heavy damage from Hurricane Dorian

An aerial view on Wednesday shows a destroyed home on Grand Bahama Island. (Joe Skipper/Reuters)

A couple from Thunder Bay, Ont., who spent several years living and working in the Bahamas, says they're relieved friends and former colleagues appear to be safe but the level of destruction left by Hurricane Dorian has been hard to watch.

Steven and Rhonda Bill taught at a small private school for four years, Steven Bill said. The time they spent teaching, doing missionary work and volunteering at a local church in a town on the Bahamian Abaco Islands, led to many friendships which became like a second family.

Abaco has has definitely become like our second home," he said. "That makes it that much harder as we witness all this destruction now on the island as well."

The extent of the damage which people living there have told him about is shocking, Bill said.

"Their house, a very sturdy house, they said that their roof blew off in the middle of the storm," he said, referring to a friend's message. "So if you can imagine these 160, 180 mile-an-hour winds blowing ... and then suddenly your roof is lifted off, it's just incredible."

"They said that they — there are nine of them — that took shelter in the bathroom, they had mattresses on top of their heads."

That kind of story, Bill said, illustrated to him just how dangerous the situation was, with people needing to move from one sheltered location to another in the middle of the storm as Dorian wiped away buildings.

"I just can't wrap my head around how scary that would have been and how traumatizing that is."

Adding to that, he said, is the aftermath — not only the physical cleanup and rebuilding, but the process of people are going through trying to reconnect with friends, family and loved ones.

Cars were submerged in water from Hurricane Dorian in Freeport on Tuesday. Dorian's relentless winds have caused catastrophic damage and flooding. (Ramon Espinosa/The Associated Press)

The country's population is resilient, he said and are no strangers to rebounding from hurricanes and other violent storms, but "it will take time."

"We hope for them to be able to rebound but they're going to need help from outside," Bill said, adding that basic survival necessities, such as tarps, emergency supplies and batteries, are needed "in order to survive over the next little while."

Bill said he hopes people will donate to the Red Cross or other disaster relief and aid organizations.

now