Over the weekend, as the storm hit the Bahamas in what Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called "a historic tragedy," claiming five lives on the Abaco Islands and flooding neighborhoods, outrage brewed on Twitter about conditions on the private island Castaway Cay. The Disney Cruise Lines port located 30 miles from Abaco is home to 60 full-time employees.
“My sister is stuck in the middle of a Cat 5 hurricane. We were told they would evacuate and they didn’t. Left them behind!! Why??,” Twitter user Meg Green wrote in a deleted-tweet, according to the Miami Times.
Later, she reportedly tweeted, “Remember that time [Disney Cruises] left 97 employees on a tiny island in a Catagory 5 hurricane? I do.”
Irish politician Anne-Marie McNally also blamed Disney Cruise Line for “endangering” the lives of employees.
Unlike @RoyalCaribbean who evacuated CocoCay staff last week to allow them get to their homes & families and do their own hurricane prep. @DisneyCruise really need to be called out for endangering their workers lives like this.
— Anne-Marie McNally (@amomcnally) September 2, 2019
So glad to hear that the Disney crew members are safe. I'm still interested though - why not just get them off of Castaway Cay? Why have them stay there with the track of Dorian so close? Seems like it would have been better to take the safest precautions and just evacuate? https://t.co/2axX88W1j0
— Bri Eggers (@BriEggers) September 2, 2019
I agree. They should have been evacuated. They had the opportunity. Guess its not policy. Have not heard from my daughter (crew member) since Sunday, Disney can say they are safe all they want. But until I hear from her I am still going to worry.
— gooch13 (@gooch13) September 3, 2019
@DisneyCruise @Disney How could you leave 97 crew members on Castaway Cay, a flat tiny island only 5 ft above sea level, when you had 72 hours notice of the danger? None of the families have heard a thing. Corporate greed at its worst. #castawaycay #disneygreed #Dorian
— Stephanie Ann (@StephDorazio) September 2, 2019
If the ship’s not going there, why leave staff there? Strange decision but it’s probably a financial one
— DeanQUARTERPOUNDER🍔 (@SaltBeefYid) September 2, 2019
According to the Miami Herald, Kim Prunty, vice president, communications and public affairs at The Walt Disney Company, had tweeted to Green, “I understand your concern, as they are our co-workers. Castaway is south of the more significant weather. [Disney Cruise Lines] is in regular contact with island leadership and all are safe. Forecast calls for tropical storm force winds, which is what is there now. There are extensive measures in place to keep crew safe. A shelter on the island houses all crew and is stocked with a plentiful supply of food and water.“
Green reportedly tweeted back, “Why risk the lives of 97 staff members? They had plenty of time to evacuate, but the decision was made to stay.”
The Herald also reported that per a Disney staffer, removing employees from the island by way of boat and plane “would have been difficult.”
According to CBS 12, a Sunday statement posted to Disney’s website (that was later revised) read, “Many of our guests have asked questions about Castaway Cay. Some of our Crew remained on the island and their care and safety is our highest priority. We are in regular contact with island leadership, who is making sure our Crew is well taken care of in our storm shelter, which is designed for these types of situations and has restrooms, power and is well stocked with food and water. Castaway Cay remains south of the more significant weather and is currently experiencing tropical storm force winds, which based on the current forecast, are expected for the next several hours before gradually diminishing. Our thoughts are with the people in areas of The Bahamas that are being impacted by this storm and we stand ready to contribute to recovery efforts.”
The updated version reads, “As forecasted, sustained winds on the island did not extend beyond tropical force strength and our Crew has returned to their living quarters after spending a few hours in our storm shelter yesterday. Our thoughts continue to be with the people in areas of The Bahamas that are being impacted by this storm and we stand ready to contribute to recovery efforts.”
On Monday, the website read, “We continue to closely monitor the path and progress of Hurricane Dorian to ensure our guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain our ships steer clear of the storm. The safety of our guests and crew is always our foremost concern. Since all tropical storms and hurricanes are inherently unpredictable, our plans may change from day to day based on the most current information. Please check this site often for the most up to date information.”
A Disney spokesperson tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Having operated Castaway Cay for more than 20 years, we have extensive experience managing situations like this, with the care and safety of our Crew driving every decision we make. The forecast leading up to this storm showed that Castaway Cay was most likely to experience tropical storm conditions and that is what occurred. Should conditions have changed, we were confident that our storm bunker, which is constructed to withstand Category 5 hurricane conditions and is 20 feet above sea level, would protect our Crew Members.”
The spokesperson added, “All is well at Castaway Cay. Because of the tropical storm conditions experienced on the island, we have some cleaning up to do related to landscaping and will need to make minor repairs to the roof of one small covered pavilion. We are awaiting the arrival of survey equipment to evaluate the pier and ship channel, as is required after any storm, before we are able to reopen Castaway Cay to guests.”
“Our Crew Members are in their living quarters and are, of course, concerned about their families, friends and homes in the areas that have been significantly impacted,” the rep said. “We have been monitoring the situation with heavy hearts and stand ready to assist with relief and recovery efforts.”
The Orlando Sentinel reported that employees returned to their homes on Monday, which were not damaged by the storm.
On Tuesday, following the Twitter fire, the company pledged to donate $1 million to aid people in the Bahamas who are impacted by the hurricane.
“The Walt Disney Company stands with the people of The Bahamas affected by Hurricane Dorian,” Robert A. Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company said in a press release sent to Yahoo Lifestyle. “We hope our $1 million donation will provide much-needed relief and help our neighbors, colleagues, and all those impacted by this devastating storm begin the long process of recovery as they work to put their lives and communities back together.”
The $1 million will go toward relief agencies and supplies, with Disney employees in serious need receiving additional resources.
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