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Updated: 24th January 2020 00:12 Calgary

'Monumental task': Calgarian dedicated to rebuilding Bahamas after surviving Dorian

A Calgarian who was building a hurricane-proof home in the Bahamas when Dorian struck says that he is dedicating his life to rebuilding the area after the structure was left standing. 

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Cordell DaSilva was building a hurricane-proof home that withstood the storm. Now, he wants to build more

The eye of the storm hit Elbow Cay on the morning of Sept. 1. ( Jessica Mullen)

A Calgarian who was building a hurricane-proof home in the Bahamas when Hurricane Dorian struck said that he is now dedicating his life to rebuilding the area. 

Cordell DaSilva was staying in the southeastern end of Freeport, Bahamas when the hurricane tore through the northeast.

He hid in the closet as howling winds violently shook the windows and patio doors of his Airbnb.

"It's a terrifying noise, and of course, there's no power … so you're in the dark," DaSilva told the Calgary Eyeopener guest host Doug Dirks on Tuesday.

"It was pretty traumatizing … [but] I'm alive, and there's a lot of people on the island that are in a lot worse shape."

In the aftermath of the storm, his immediate surroundings did not appear seriously damaged, DaSilva said.

Homes lay in ruins one week after Hurricane Dorian hit The Mudd neighborhood, in the Marsh Harbor area of Abaco, Bahamas on Sept. 9. Dorian, the most powerful hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas' recorded history, has killed at least 44 people in Bahamas as of Sept. 8, according to the government. (Fernando Llano/Associated Press)

The structure DaSilva had been building to withstand a hurricane was in the treacherous northeast, and he says that he did not expect it to survive.

It was not yet finished when the winds and tides were vicious.

And yet, aside from a large container that had been tossed into the wall and caused "minimal" damage, DaSilva said it was left virtually untouched by the winds that had torn the roofs from other buildings.

"We got the structure up as far as the exterior walls … so the building was pretty much exposed," DaSilva said.

"The Friday before the hurricane hit, we … [were] not expecting to see anything when we got back on Wednesday morning.

"And … there was the building, standing."

But this was not the case everywhere.

'So hard to talk about it'

DaSilva says that some areas had been demolished to almost nothing.

"[It] looked like somebody had dropped a nuclear bomb," DaSilva said. "In some areas of neighbourhoods, there was no evidence of any houses. Just rubble."

Witnessing the loss, DaSilva says, has inspired him to spend his life continuing to build hurricane-proof homes and helping the island nation rebuild. 

"It's so hard to talk about it still. There [are] so many people that have lost everything, including family members," DaSilva said, getting emotional. 

"Knowing now that this system could change lives, it could save lives, it can impact people's lives. I've decided to dedicate the rest of my life to help the people in the Bahamas with shelter."

DaSilva isn't going it alone. He says that since the hurricane, his phone has been ringing with offers from Calgarians wanting to help his initiative.

"It's a monumental task, but already I have architects that are reaching out to me," DaSilva said. "We ought to be proud of Calgarians too because ... there's a whole infrastructure that's being put together right now in Calgary."

DaSilva says his vision is to eventually build multi-family condominiums with help from architects in Freeport. He's no expert in the building process, DaSilva says, but he can't shake the sense that it's what he should be doing.

"I just have this passion and this relentless feeling within me," DaSilva says. "[For] that building to [still] be standing is a miracle. It shouldn't have been there. It really shouldn't. So for me, that's a message."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

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