COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Two Chapin men are working together to bring relief aid to the people of the Bahamas, two and a half weeks after Hurricane Dorian ravaged Grand Bahama and Great Abaco Island.
The hurricane was the strongest to ever hit the island in modern history and caused an estimated seven billion dollars in damage. It claimed the lives of more than 50 people and left more than 75,000 people homeless.
Brandon Liles is a Chapin business owner but has long enjoyed flying as a pilot. He along with his friend Craig Summerall is coordinating a relief effort to bring much-needed supplies to the people of the Bahamas who are left with nothing in the wake of Dorian.
“Keep our Bahamian brothers and sisters in your mind, as the news cycle changes realize their needs aren’t going to change anytime soon and it’s an absolutely catastrophic event that’s affected tens of thousands of people that’s going to take years to get over,” said Liles.
Liles has logged more than 35 hours of flight time over the course of seven days and has completed 34 individual legs of his journey between Columbia, Florida and the Bahamas. In all, he’s made eight international border crossings and evacuated 42 people from some of the hardest-hit areas.
“Complete and utter devastation,” said Liles. “I’ve never seen that many houses completely destroyed for such a wide area of land.”
So far, Summerall and Liles have flown nearly 4,000 pounds of donated supplies, including food, water, tarps, and generators. Both men admit it’s become a long chain of people from multiple cities and states pooling together their resources to provide relief.
“It’s rewarding because you know there are truly a lot of people out there who care and so to be able to see that on the tail end and see that caring spirit turn actually turn into action,” said Summerall.
Liles is planning to return to the islands this weekend, where he said he’s been greeted by hundreds of Bahamians looking for a ride.
“When I would land and you get out of the plane, you literally see hundreds of people waiting to get a ride off,” he said. “Some come up to you with a handbag, some come to you with nothing so it’s a hard thing to see.”
Both men said they will continue to coordinate trips as long as their help is needed. They are collecting monetary donations as well as supplies. Those interested in donating can use the Venmo app and the username @SC-ABACO-RELIEF. Money raised helps purchase supplies and keep fuel in Liles’ plane. So far, the two men have raised $25,000 in monetary donations.