In his second trip to Inagua since the passage of Hurricane Ike, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said he is very pleased with the cleanup work to-date, and pointed out that the Inagua All-Age School remains the first priority in the schedule of public works already in progress.

“A state of normalcy is returning to Inagua,” Mr. Ingraham said following his tour of Mathew Town Saturday.

Back on September 9, the Prime Minister toured the island with a team of Cabinet Ministers, members of the Opposition and government officials who travelled to get a first-hand view of the damage caused by the category four hurricane.

On Saturday Mr. Ingraham, along with National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Director Commander Stephen Russell and Local Government officials toured the island’s Defence Force Base, Administrator’s Office, All-Age School, NEMA’s supplies storage area, and visited several elderly persons on the island whose roofs were repaired by the Government since the passage of Ike.

The Prime Minister said: “Our schedule of public works was the restoration of water supply which has now been completed, the restoration of electricity supply which is virtually complete [and] the restoration of telephone services which is more than 60 percent complete.

“The airport will come next, but the first priority is the public school.”

While touring the island’s All-Age school, Mr. Ingraham spoke with parents there and assured them both of the Government’s commitment to providing a safe learning environment for their children, and to landscaping the grounds of the school for the first time.

He told parents that principally, suitable buildings on the island would be utilised to accommodate students, adding that the use of trailers would be the last option considered by the Government.

Prior to his discussion with parents at the school, the Prime Minister toured the St. Philip’s Parish Community Centre which was previously used as a hurricane shelter and has now been designated a temporary site for three of the primary school grades on the island.

“Some parents expressed concern about some of the classrooms and the structural soundness of them,” Mr. Ingraham noted. “I assured them that we would have it viewed by a structural engineer and have the results explained to them in a PTA meeting.”

While at the public school, Mr. Ingraham also spoke with a Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) staffer about the progress of electrification at the school and how that process could be expedited.

With regard to social work on the island, Mr. Ingraham credited Department of Social Service workers with doing “an excellent job” on the ground.

“They have done an excellent job on the island,” he noted. “They have provided us with social assessments for all people and homes and have put us in a position to have resources and assistance allocated.”

Pauline Bowen-Forbes, one of the island’s social workers advised that four to five homes of elderly persons who lost roofs in the storm had been repaired, and that the process of home repairs would be progressing to the disabled, single parents and then to the general community.

Mrs. Forbes added that residents have been moved from shelters and have returned to their homes.

Expressing his pleasure meantime with the amount of relief supplies on the island, Mr. Ingraham advised that supplies were expected to arrive aboard a Defence Force craft Saturday night, with additional supplies expected to arrive this week.

Materials for the repair of at least 30 homes in Inagua were on the ground, with work expected to commence this week, according to Commander Russell.

“A new shipment of supplies arrived just yesterday (Friday),” he noted. “We are also pleased that some 40 volunteers from the Methodist Habitat programme came on the island Wednesday – that has definitely increased our volunteer manpower and so with the materials and additional manpower, that has given us a great boost in going forward with repairs. I am quite pleased with how we are progressing thus far.”

Mr. Ingraham advised that the Morton Salt Company agreed to donate $50,000 to the Red Cross in addition to the $150,000 it recently donated to its employees in Inagua.