12 September 2019: As the search continues for hundreds of people still missing nearly two weeks after Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, emergency communications agency Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) is helping stranded survivors get in touch with their families.
Inmarsat-sponsored TSF was the first international NGO to reach the devastated Abaco Islands, helping the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to set up an Emergency Coordination Centre ready for the arrival of disaster response teams. With terrestrial and cellular networks down, establishing a satellite communication link was vital for the coordination of rescue and relief efforts.
Hurricane Dorian was the most powerful storm to hit the Bahamas since records began, leaving 70,000 people in need of food and shelter. When the Category 5 tropical cyclone reached the Abaco Islands on 1 September, winds of up to 185mph (298km/h), storm surges and scattered debris destroyed entire communities.
At least 50 people are known to have died in Abaco and Grand Bahamas, but hundreds are still unaccounted for. Through its humanitarian calling operations, TSF is enabling hurricane victims – many left with nothing – to let loved ones know they are alive and get help.
Expert teams are still travelling throughout the worst-hit areas offering free calls on IsatPhone 2 satellite phones.
Another Inmarsat-supported organisation, Team Rubicon UK, has also deployed to the Bahamas. The ex-military first responders are supporting the safe delivery and distribution of life-saving aid to those who are most in need.
The rapid intensification and forecast direction of Hurricane Dorian triggered the Crisis Connectivity Charter, under which Inmarsat and other leading satellite operators commit dedicated equipment and pre-allocated bandwidth capacity for humanitarian purposes that can be activated within 24 hours of a crisis and cover all regions of the globe.