Disney defends decision to keep employees on private island to ride out Hurricane Dorian

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This GOES-16 satellite image taken Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at 17:00 UTC and provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Dorian, right, churning over the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Dorian struck the northern Bahamas on Sunday as a catastrophic Category 5 storm, its 185 mph winds ripping off roofs and tearing down power lines as hundreds hunkered in schools, churches and other shelters. (NOAA via AP)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Disney is under fire after the company allegedly left their employees in a lurch when Category 5 Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas over the weekend.

The Miami Herald reports a crew of Disney Cruise Line workers were left on a private island the company calls Castaway Cay, as the eye of the hurricane passed just to the north.

After some tweets from worried family members, the company confirmed several of their employees had ridden out the storm and were safe.

“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??,” Meg Green said on Twitter.

“Remember that time [Disney Cruises] left 97 employees on a tiny island in a Catagory 5 hurricane? I do,” Green said in another tweet.

“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,” Kim Prunty, Disney’s vice president of communications and public affairs, told Green on Twitter Sunday night.

Green replied: “Why risk the lives of 97 staff members? They had plenty of time to evacuate, but the decision was made to stay.”

A spokesperson for Disney explained that they would have to use both boats and planes to evacuate staff, which would have made things difficult. They said there was no need to send people away since there was a hurricane shelter on the island, which was built to withstand Category 4 conditions, according to the newspaper.

On Monday, a Disney spokesperson reached out to News Channel 8 and said the company posted a new update on its website regarding Castaway Cay:

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. 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.

– Disney spokesperson

Castaway Cay, originally known as Gorda Cay, is just off the southern end of Great Abaco Island. About 60 Disney workers live there year-round, according to the company’s website.

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