Dorian leaves tens of thousands in Bahamas without food

Updated September 05, 2019

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Damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian on the Great Abaco island town of Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, on September 4. — Reuters
Damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian on the Great Abaco island town of Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, on September 4. — Reuters

MARSH HARBOUR (Bahamas): Rescuers searched for survivors in the Bahamas on Wednesday after Hurri­cane Dorian, the most damaging storm to strike the island nation, left in its wake a flooded landscape dotted with pulverised homes and beached boats.

The scope of the damage and humanitarian crisis was still unfolding as aerial video of the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas showed wide swaths of destruction and officials warned the current death toll of seven was likely to rise. Aid agencies estimated that tens of thousands of people would need food and other support.

“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told a news conference. “No effort or resources will be held back.” Some storm victims remained on rooftops, awaiting rescue, according to media reports early on Wednesday.

“We can expect more deaths to be recorded. This is just preliminary information,” Minnis said.

“Marsh Harbour has suffered, I would estimate, in excess of 60 percent damage to their homes,” Minnis said, referring to the port on Great Abaco.

“The Mud, as we know, has been completely destroyed or decimated,” he said referring to a shantytown.

Aerial video of the Bahamas’ Great Abaco Island showed miles of flooded neighbourhoods, littered with upturned boats, and shipping containers scattered like toys. Many buildings had walls or roofs partly ripped off.

“Victims are being loaded on flatbed trucks across Abaco,” one Twitter user with the handle @mvp242 said, describing a rain-blurred photograph of limp bodies strewn across a truck bed. Other posts on Twitter said entire communities were swept away.

The State Department said it did not believe any US citizens who were in the Bahamas during the storm were killed. Most Americans in the Bahamas evacuated before the storm, a senior State Department official told reporters.

After rampaging through the Caribbean as one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded, Dorian wind speeds dropped on Tuesday to make it a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale. It maintained that level on Wednesday, but forecasters warned it was still dangerous.

Residents of coastal Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were bracing for Dorian’s approach on Wednesday, with the National Hurricane Centre warning the slow-moving storm could make landfall in South or North Carolina Thursday or Friday.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp extended a state of emergency to cover 21 counties as the storm tracked north towards its coast. The emergency covers more than 900,000 Georgia residents, of whom over 400,000 have been ordered to evacuate, according to the state Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

Dorian packed sustained winds of 105 miles per hour (165 kph) and was moving at 8 mph, as it churned about 130 miles (209 km) south-southeast of Jacksonville, Florida, the NHC said in an 9am advisory.

Hurricane-force winds had expanded to 60 miles (100 km) from the storm’s core. Heavy rains and storm-surge waters moving inland could cause life-threatening flash floods, the NHC said. The risk extended from Jupiter, Florida., to Surf City, North Carolina. Tornadoes were possible along the Florida coast, with the risk later moving to Georgia and South Carolina.

With telephones down on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, residents posted lists of missing loved ones across social media sites.

A single Facebook post by media outlet Our News Bahamas seeking the names of missing people had 1,600 comments listing lost family members since it went live on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2019