Commander Stephen Russell, director of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has set a Christmas deadline to complete repairs to homes in Inagua damage by Hurricane Ike.

According to an assessment conducted by Social Services, about 201 homes received major damages; 42 minor damages; two homes extensively damaged; four destroyed; and 10 homes left unscathed.

“We are now into the repair and reconstruction phases; even though restoration is going on simultaneous. We are trying to restore electrical power, telecommunications and water to the island. We are aiming for residents to have some sense of normalcy by Christmas,” Commander Russell said.

He noted that commander Russell said homes would be repaired in order of priority, starting with senior citizens, the disabled, single mothers and those of low income.

A number of organisations have volunteered their services, on a rotation basis, towards the reconstruction effort being spearheaded by NEMA’s representative John Nixon.

The first priority for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force stationed in Inagua is to examine the Inagua All-Age School and the Defence Force compound to ensure the soundness of the structures.

Commander Russell commended the team effort of utility personnel in getting services restored on the island.

“We have committed ourselves to a 10-day challenge for the relief effort, now we are in the recovery and reconstruction phases. All persons who initially came through with supplies, we were able to get them into the island as quickly as we can,” he said.

The government, through NEMA, would also engage the services of residents on the island as employees in the reconstruction phase, Commander Russell said. He added that in some cases, contractors would be hired to carry out major works.