NASSAU, Bahamas (Reuters) – Charities, government agencies and even cruise ships loaded with supplies and volunteers rushed emergency aid to the storm-ravaged Bahamas on Saturday amid fears of a “staggering” death toll left in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. Men load bottles of water in a pick up truck at Marsh Harbour Government Port during
NASSAU, Bahamas (Reuters) – Charities, government agencies and even cruise ships loaded with supplies and volunteers rushed emergency aid to the storm-ravaged Bahamas on Saturday amid fears of a “staggering” death toll left in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
Men load bottles of water in a pick up truck at Marsh Harbour Government Port during an evacuation operation after Hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Marco Bello
Bahamas leaders believe hundreds and perhaps thousands are missing in the archipelago nation of about 400,000 people, even as the official death toll rose only to 43 as of late on Friday.
Large swaths of the northern Bahamas were rendered wastelands by the storm, with homes pulverized, cars and boats thrown around like toys and the smell of death permeating the air in parts of Great Abaco Island, one of the hardest hit.
Evacuees from Great Abaco poured into the capital Nassau, and a cruise ship arrived in Palm Beach, Florida with some 1,100 people fleeing the destruction. Many of them faced uncertain futures.
Isaiah Johnson, 19, said that he, his mother and his three sisters fled Abaco after Dorian destroyed their home. A wealthy friend bought them a two-week hotel stay in Nassau, but after that it was unclear where they would go.
His mother was already searching for work in the United States, Johnson said, reckoning that jobs would be hard to find in Nassau.
“Two weeks might be enough time for me to figure things out,” Johnson said on Saturday. “For my mom, I’m not so sure.”
The U.S. Coast Guard and Navy were shipping in relief supplies and had already rescued some 290 people from isolated areas in the islands hard-hit by the storm.
Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful hurricane on record to hit the Bahamas, parked itself over part of the archipelago for almost two days earlier this week, pummeling it with Category 5 winds, with some gusts topping 200 miles per hour (320 kph).
The most powerful hurricane on record to hit the Bahamas levelled some neighbourhoods, swallowed others with storm surges and caused many deaths.
Dorian also devastated parts of the Outer Banks Islands in North Carolina, on Friday and it continued to push northward along the U.S. Atlantic coast on Saturday.
It brought tropical storm force winds to southeastern Massachusetts and Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday before charging on towards Canada at 29 mph (47 kph), according to an advisory from the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.
Dorian was located about 215 miles (350 km) southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia, at 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT), the NHC said.
It is expected to make landfall in Nova Scotia province on Saturday night with winds of about 85 mph (137 kph) and leave up to 7 inches of rain.
LARGE NUMBER OF DEAD FEARED
The medical chief of staff at Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau said two refrigerated, 40-foot trucks would be needed to hold the “staggering” number of bodies that were expected to be found. “We’ve ordered lots of body bags,” said Dr. Caroline Burnett-Garraway.
The United Nations estimated 70,000 people needed food, water and shelter. The U.N. World Food Programme was airlifting storage units, generators, prefab offices, and satellite equipment as well as 8 metric tonnes of ready-to-eat meals.
The American Red Cross said it had committed an initial $2 million help the Bahamas recover from the hurricane, with food, water and shelter and other necessities.
“Our relief operation is growing, but we are also facing serious challenges in terms of delivering aid,” Red Cross spokeswoman Jennifer Eli said. “Even search-and-rescue choppers haven’t been able to reach some people because there’s no place to land. These challenges are affecting everyone.”
Near an area called The Mudd in Marsh Harbour, a commercial hub, a Reuters witness reported most houses levelled, the body of a man lying near a main street and dead dogs floating in water. Some residents were leaving the area with meagre possessions, while others were determined to remain.
Relief groups were focusing on getting doctors, nurses and medical supplies into the hardest-hit areas and helping survivors get food and safe drinking water.
The risk of outbreaks of diarrhea and waterborne diseases is high as drinking water may be tainted with sewage, according to the Pan American Health Organization, which described the situation for some people on Abaco island as “desperate.”
Claudin Loriston, 39, a Haitian carpenter, said he and his three young children were among the “lucky ones” to get on a plane out of Abaco. He said he had no documents with him, but would try to get a job to support his family.
“There are too many dead bodies there. The government needs to remove everyone from the island, the smell is everywhere, it’s in the water.”
Reporting by Nick Brown Zachary Fagenson in Nassau, Additional reporting by Dante Carrer and Marco Bello in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Rich McKay in Atlanta,; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Alexander Smith and Alistair Bell