Bahamas Rocked by "Tsunami" From Hurricane Wilma

Blake de Pastino in Grand Bahama, the Bahamas
National Geographic News
November 8, 2005

View "Photo Gallery: Hurricane Heaves 'Tsunami' on Bahamas Island">>

When Hurricane Wilma ripped through Florida two weeks ago, the devastation didn't stop once the storm left the U.S.

After cutting a swath from Marco Island to Miami, Wilma picked up new strength and made a change in course that local forecasts didn't predict.

Few would realize this, however, until Wilma made landfall the next day, October 24, on Grand Bahama. The small island is the second most populous island of the Bahamas, some 65 miles (105 kilometers) off the Florida coast.

The storm became what many here are saying was the most devastating hurricane the island has ever seen. It has left at least a thousand Bahamians homeless, and hundreds more are still without electricity two weeks after the storm.

"This is the worst one I've been through," said Samuel Mation, 74, as he sifted through the remains of his small home in the village of Eight Mile Rock. "I moved to Grand Bahama in '60, and this is the worst one I've seen."

Small, remote fishing villages like Eight Mile Rock on the island's West End sustained the heaviest damage.

Residents there describe storm surges 12 feet (3.7 meters) high, which swept away more than a hundred homes and killed at least one villager, a 15-month-old child who drowned in the sea swells.

Local media are calling the surge "the Bahamian tsunami."

Now Grand Bahamians are left wondering how to rebuild and what, if anything, they can do to better protect themselves from future tropical storms.

"This was a massive wave that came in, one that was beyond any way to control it," said Sean Davis, 33, of Eight Mile Rock. "You couldn't do nothing with that one."

Eight Mile Rock

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