Perfect Storms Strike Bermuda
Published on April 1st, 2016
Hamilton, Bermuda (April 1, 2016) – Bermuda Premier Michael Dunkley declared a state of emergency and a countrywide curfew in an effort to quell widespread rioting and looting throughout the country.
Riots erupted yesterday outside Session House, along Front Street, and at groceries in all parishes leaving produce shelves bare while labour unions and government remain at an impasse on immigration and labour policies.
Compounding the situation, Cyclone Alex, which caused recent power outages and flooding, and an Artic front sweeping down from Canada collided north-northeast of Bermuda forcing Bermuda Islander to return to port in New Jersey earlier this week, leaving Bermuda without fresh food supplies for the third week in a row.
“The OBA (One Bermuda Alliance) and the British government have taken an unprecedented measure and have arranged for the drop shipment of emergency food and medical provisions,” said Premier Dunkley in a prepared statement at 8:00 pm last night. “The health and safety of Bermudians is of utmost importance to Her Majesty and the Royal Air Force. We wish them Godspeed. In the meantime, Bermuda must come together as a community, live in harmony, and share our supplies and food stores with our neighbors. Additionally, in this time of crisis, we must put our labour and immigration disputes behind us. We cannot afford to have people starving while produce rots in containers at the port.”
Somers Island Shipping confirmed two container ships the Somers Isles and the Amstel Trader are making full speed to Bermuda to alleviate the fresh food shortage. The Amstel Trader, which has assumed the dry-docked Bermuda Islander’s route from New Jersey, could arrive with further supplies as early as Tuesday afternoon next week.
Gary Shuman, president of MarketPlace, the island’s largest chain of supermarkets reported, “All of the supermarkets are in the same boat. Containers with perishable items have been locked up at the port ever since the labour strike began three weeks ago. We’ve been out of fresh produce for close to two weeks. Even our supply of non-perishables was low, but after yesterday’s looting, our shelves are bare. I’ve lived here all of my life and I’ve never seen it this bad. It wasn’t even this bad after (Hurricane) Fabian.”
Giorgio Zanol, president Lindo’s supermarkets in Warwick and Devonshire, said, “We live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. No matter how much we think we can manage shipping and logistics, we can’t control Mother Nature. One woman’s hunger strike three weeks ago grew into a nationwide shutdown of government services, then the ports closed, then the storm hit. The OBA can’t put a Band-Aid on this. Bermuda’s got some serious problems.”
Norwegian Breakaway, scheduled to make its first call at King’s Wharf in Dockyard this season, diverted to Charleston, S.C. with the news of the storm and the riots.
“We must be mindful of the current state of our economy and the hospitality industry,” cautioned Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy. “We have invested heavily in the America’s Cup to reinvigorate our tourism economy. Extensive investments in hotel renovations and developments are being made and our airport reconstruction is scheduled to commence shortly. Peak tourist season is just around the corner. We mustn’t endanger these investments in our country’s future. My tolerance for strike action, civil unrest, and natural disaster will only go so far. The OBA will enforce the Labour Relations Act of 1975 and ensure that port and dock services, including pilotage, tug and line boat operations will resume regardless of the state of negotiations with the unions.”
Tom Wadson, an avid supporter of Bermuda’s sailing community and the island’s largest organic farmer, devoted his call in radio show on Inspire 105, to the island’s food crisis. “As our largest local grower you would think that I’d be making hay, but I’m wiped out. I can honestly tell you that Wadson’s Farm has only been wiped out once since we started farming back in 1976. This situation pales in comparison to 2003. The winter storms flooded my fields all over the island. We couldn’t sow our spring crop, and our orchards haven’t born fruit yet. We made our final CSA deliveries last week. We’ve closed our farm stand. The 60,000 of us on this rock have to come up with a Plan B for our own survival. The America’s Cup isn’t going to put food on our table for well over a year, and believe me, the America’s Cup people have to be thinking long and hard about what conditions are going to be like next June.”
Spokespersons from the Bermuda Industrial Union and the Bermuda Public Services Union confirm that they are monitoring the situation and awaiting an invitation to resume negotiations with Premier Dunkley and his cabinet.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Public Works confirmed that due to industrial action there will be no trash collection today. Buses and ferries are not running “until further notice.”
The Marsh Folly composting site, Airport Disposal Site, and Tyne’s Bay drop-off are not operating today. The Government Quarry and Prospect Depot will also not be operating today.