Within hours of Hurricane Dorian leaving the Abacos and Grand Bahamas last week, a Disaster Assist Relief Team from YachtAid Global arrived to start operations.
“The winds were still blowing,” YachtAid Global founder and CEO Mark Drewelow, told Trade Only Today. “The team really pushed the envelope to get in as soon as seas were calm enough.”
After assessing the situation, three DART team members cleared the area for the arrival of the 155-foot yacht Loon. Drewelow explained that the team uses an underwater remotely operated vehicle, plus other diving equipment, to survey the area for obstructions like sunken vessels, trees or utility poles.
Once Loon arrived, the 12 additional GSD DART team members on board the yacht began search-and-rescue missions in what YachtAid Global is calling Operation Topaz.
Loon stayed on site for seven days, providing a base of operations for the team. “My guess is they saved hundreds and possibly even thousands of lives during the week,” said Drewelow.
YachtAid Global provides humanitarian aid, conservation and disaster response. The nonprofit group does not own its vessels or equipment. Rather, it provides logistical consultation and organization efforts where they are needed around the world. It also relies on the generosity of yacht owners for finding support vessels during the disaster.
“Disaster relief is the most complicated thing we do,” said Drewelow. “There’s no common operating picture about who’s doing what.”
YachtAid Global partners with the GSD DART team, as well as other organizations such as the National Emergency Management Association in the Bahamas, and even the United Nations. The DART team is made up of retired military members who are assigned to areas as needed.
To help prioritize missions, the DART team takes pictures and videos of everything it’s doing and sends the information to NEMA, so local officials can use as much data as possible to make decisions on how to allocate personnel and supplies.
The information can sometimes be a life saver. Drewelow said that YachtAid Global has received texts at its San Diego headquarters, from people stranded in disaster areas. “We push that information down to the DART team and they go find those people,” he said.
In addition to helping people, YachtAid global also provided logistical assistance for arranging a boat to rescue 55 dogs and transport them to Florida. “We were an enabling partner in that rescue operation,” said Drewelow. “The boat crew set that up with the (dog rescue).”
While efforts are still ongoing on the ground in the Bahamas, Drewelow said the most important thing people can do now to support to the relief efforts is through donations. The organization has its own donation site that has raised nearly $70,000.
“The biggest problem is stuff clogging the pipeline. We create the sea bridge between Miami and the Abacos,” Drewelow explained. “We’re connected at the U.N. level. Once we get a needs assessment that says we need 5,000 chainsaws we go to the Home Depot Foundation and the Lowes Foundation. What’s needed more is money.”
Tomorrow, YachtAid Global will host a press conference at Lauderdale Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale, from 3 to 4:30 p.m.
“They’re moving as fast as they can in the Bahamas, and now there are government assessment teams on the ground helping to organize things,” said Drewelow. “People need to understand how natural disasters unfold before they start criticizing the rescue and relief efforts. It’s called a disaster for a reason.”