Bahamas left devastated after 3 days of pounding by Hurricane Dorian

Debris is spread across several kilometres, and floodwaters still cover much of the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, with the archipelago’s prime minister calling it one of the worst disasters to ever strike the island nation.

Emergency workers were struggling to reach victims as search and rescue operations continued into Wednesday and the scope of the damage and humanitarian crisis unfolded.

“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.”

News media reported early on Wednesday that some storm victims remained stuck on rooftops, waiting for rescue. The official death count of seven is expected rise in the coming days.

“We can expect more deaths to be recorded. This is just preliminary information,” Minnis told a news conference.

A family walks on a road after being rescued from the flood waters of Hurricane Dorian, near Freeport, Grand Bahama, in the Bahamas on Tuesday. (Ramon Espinosa/The Associated Press)

“Marsh Harbor has suffered, I would estimate, in excess of 60 per cent 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 known as the Mud and the Peas.

I’ve been through a lot of hurricanes, but I’ve never seen something just sit on us and just move at one mile an hour, and it just wouldn’t give up.– Bahamian Tim Aylen

Aerial video of the Bahamas’ Great Abaco Island revealed kilometres of flooded neighbourhoods, pulverized buildings, upturned boats and shipping containers scattered like toys. Many buildings had walls or roofs partly ripped off after being battered by the storm for three days.

Tim Aylen, a Bahamian who lives inland, told CBC News on Wednesday that his family considered going up in their attic or onto the rooftop, but that seemed like “a trap,” given how high the water was rising in the house.

“I mean, there was no point staying in the house and waiting for a rescue,” he said.

Aylen, a photojournalist who has documented many news events, was still taken aback as he welcomed the passing of the storm.

“I’ve been through a lot of hurricanes, but I’ve never seen something just sit on us and just move at one mile an hour, and it just wouldn’t give up,” he said. “So this is a huge relief and although we haven’t washed or eaten or done anything in a couple of days, it’s just good to be dry.”

On Wednesday morning, Dorian was a Category 2 storm packing maximum sustained winds of 165 kilometres per hour and moving north-northwest at 13 km/h, as it churned about 155 kilometres east-northeast of Daytona Beach, Fla., the NHC said.

Watch as a woman offers a first-hand account of the storm from Freeport:

Kimberly Mullings tells CBC News about how people are trapped in their homes in Freeport, Bahamas. 1:20

“On this track, the core of Hurricane Dorian will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast and the Georgia coast through [Wednesday night],” an earlier NHC advisory said.

“Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next couple of days,” the NHC said.

Heavy rains and storm surge waters moving inland could cause life-threatening flash floods, the agency warned. The risk extended from Jupiter, Fla., north to Surf City, N.C. Tornadoes are possible along the Florida coast until Wednesday night, with the risk later moving to Georgia and South Carolina.

Long lists of missing

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

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 morning.

Watch as injured people are transported to Nassau via U.S. Coast Guard helicopter

The U.S. Coast Guard airlifted at least 21 people injured on Abaco Island in the Bahamas to the capital, Nassau, as Hurricane Dorian battered the country. 0:53

The exact toll in the Bahamas will not be clear until the storm passes and rescue crews can get to devastated areas, said Theo Neilly, the Bahamian consul general in Washington.

“We expect it to be very devastating and the damage to be extreme,” Neilly said. Dorian has battered the Bahamas for the past three days.

As many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or severely damaged, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said, in the strongest storm ever to hit the Bahamas.

An aerial view shows a row of damaged structures in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian moved north. Dorian made landfall on Aug. 31. (U.S. Coast Guard/EPA-EFE)

Food may be required for 14,500 people in the northern Bahamas’ Abaco Islands and for 45,700 people in Grand Bahama, the UN World Food Programme said in a statement. The preliminary estimates were based on an assessment by representatives of Caribbean nations, the WFP and other groups.

The Canadian government announced it would give up to $ 500,000 in emergency assistance to support experienced humanitarian organizations, while a handful of officials, including an engineering specialist, were in the Bahamas to provide expertise and help assess needs.

“We continue to work closely with [the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency] and the Government of the Bahamas to identify how Canada can best support the provision of emergency assistance,” a statement released by Global Affairs Canada.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said on Twitter it was air-lifting critical relief items, such as plastic sheeting, hygiene kits, and water containers, from Miami to the Bahamas. The U.S. Coast Guard said four of its helicopters were assisting in humanitarian efforts.

Dorian, which killed one person in Puerto Rico before striking the Bahamas on Sunday, is tied for the second-strongest Atlantic storm to make landfall with Gilbert (1988), Wilma (2005) and the 1935 Labour Day hurricane.

Tropical-storm-force winds and rain squalls were already lashing parts of the Florida coast early on Wednesday, with winds and heavy surf likely to hit the Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina coasts by late on Thursday. More than a million people were ordered to evacuate coastal counties in those states.

U.S. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for South Carolina on Tuesday, freeing funds, other federal resources and manpower to assist during the storm and aftermath recovery.

Emergencies have already been declared in Florida and Georgia.

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