‘Nothing but devastation’: Polk chaplain recalls relief trip to Bahamas

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk County Sheriff’s Office chaplain describes the devastation he witnessed on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas as “apocalyptic.”

“Houses are completely gone. The people are gone,” Don Steiner said on cell phone video he captured in Marsh Harbor, days after Hurricane Dorian destroyed the island.

Steiner is a co-founder of “Wings of Eagles International,” a Christian-affiliated organization that promotes education in developing countries.

He traveled to the Bahamas in coordination with Crossroads Alliance and Ministries, another faith-based non-profit organization, with a focus on disaster relief.

Courtesy: Dave Miller Photography

“Nothing but devastation. There’s not a tree that isn’t completely stripped,” he said. “Pieces of cars and roofs and houses, everywhere. It looked like some kind of a massive bomb went off.”

Steiner and the others were there Friday through Saturday evening.

They brought food and water to the island and assessed needs for other supplies.

“Generators are paramount but then the problem is gasoline. They were getting gas out of the destroyed boats, out of the destroyed cars,” said Steiner. “I didn’t consider it looting. I considered it surviving.”

Steiner said he took a ride with the Royal Police in a storm-battered pickup truck to neighborhoods that hadn’t been reached yet.

At least 45 people are confirmed dead but the death toll is expected to rise dramatically.

“You could smell the stench of death in the air. They would point out where they knew there were bodies, they just didn’t have the manpower or the time or the resources yet to go in and uncover them,” he said.

Steiner witnessed hundreds of people waiting at the airport, hoping to escape the nightmare.

Courtesy: Dave Miller Photography

“That was the most devastating thing is to see the faces of the people. To walk through the crowds, to talk with them, to touch them, to hold their hands, to pray with them. To see just their blank stare on their face. I think everyone there that we spoke to knew somebody who had passed,” he said.

Steiner said Florida-based Crossroads Alliance & Ministries is working with the U.S. military to set up a distribution warehouse for supplies on the island.

Steiner has a goal of raising $50,000 for his organization, Wings for Eagles International, to benefit the people of the Bahamas.

To find out how to donate, click here.


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