Bahamas Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham confirmed to the nation Saturday that all official preparations for Hurricane Ike were in place, and reiterated appeals for residents in the storm’s warning and watch cones to follow and adhere to all advisories.

The Prime Minister was addressing the latest in a series of nationally televised press conferences held by the Bahamas’ National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Shelters on the south-eastern Bahama islands under a hurricane warning were to be activated Saturday, and schools that were closed due to the passage of tropical storm Hanna were scheduled to remain closed until further notice.

“I confirm that all official preparations for Hurricane Ike are in place,” Mr. Ingraham affirmed. “I am advised that there are reasonable quantities of water available on all the affected islands. However it is extremely important that every effort is made to conserve water.

“The Ministry of Health has secured clinics throughout the islands expected to be impacted; and health care professionals will remain on duty for the duration of the hurricane. The Bahamas Electricity Corporation has advised that full stand-by crews are in place.”

Prime Minister Ingraham further advised that 12 Bahamas Defence Force Marines have been deployed ahead of Ike’s landfall; three each to Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island and San Salvador.

The Marines, he noted, will assist the police and the Family Island Hurricane Committees as necessary. Defence Force marines based in Inagua will lend similar assistance on that island.

Continuing on its projected path, Hurricane Ike is forecast to impact the Southeast Bahamas – Inagua, Mayaguana, Acklins and Crooked Island, Ragged Island and Long Cay late Saturday night and into the very early hours of Sunday.

“Storm surges of 9 – 12 ft or higher may accompany Ike, along with severe thunderstorms, heavy rain and possible tornados,” Mr. Ingraham noted.

“I want especially to emphasize that sea swells may occur even after the hurricane has passed, as was the case in Abaco on Friday where a community which remained dry as Tropical Storm Hanna passed during the night found itself flooded on Friday morning from rising swells. And so I implore residents in the southeast and central Bahamas to remain vigilant and to take appropriate precautions.”

The Prime Minister, who remains in constant contact with NEMA, informed that he has also been in personal contact with some Family Island Administrators and elected Local Government Representatives to receive reports on the preparedness of our communities in the southeast and central Bahamas.

“I have spoken personally with the Administrators in Mayaguana, Crooked Island, Inagua, Long Island, Cat Island, San Salvador, Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, Exuma and North Andros. All advise me that their communities have taken precautions and are ready for the approach of the hurricane,” he said.

The Prime Minister indicated that in general, residents on all islands have taken the threat of Ike seriously, responding well to advisories to seek shelter and to protect their homes and properties.

Mr. Ingraham urged residents whose homes cannot withstand hurricane force winds, or who live in low-lying areas and/or in very close proximity to the sea, to make plans to relocate to a hurricane shelter or to other safe houses which they have identified.

Earlier this week, several islands in The Bahamas were impacted by Tropical Storm Hanna. The Prime Minister advised that communities throughout the country were spared serious damage.

Of Hanna’s impact he said, “Sea swells have reduced but localized flooding especially in a number of low lying areas continued to impact Abaco, where some 175 persons were forced to move to hurricane shelters for a period of time yesterday (Friday).”

Electricity had been restored on islands affected by Hanna with the exception of a few locations on the island of Eleuthera. Work continued Saturday to restore electricity to those locations.

“Hurricane Ike is a dangerous storm – a hurricane that will cause tremendous damage to trees and vegetation,” the Prime Minister advised. “Every precaution ought and must be taken by all residents to reduce incidences of injury to persons and damage to structures.

“We can, and will, replace and restore anything we may lose; we cannot replace life; hence my urgent and repeated appeals for the observance of safety measures.”