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Saturday 21 September 2019

Bahamas hurricane: Hundreds gather at port in bid to escape island

Officials said 30 have been confirmed dead but the toll is sure to rise.

The hurricane caused huge devastation (Ramon Espinosa/AP)
The hurricane caused huge devastation (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

By Michael Weissenstein, Associated Press

Hundreds of desperate storm victims gathered at the port in Grand Abaco in the Bahamas on Friday, hoping to get off the hurricane-devastated island, amid signs of rising frustration over the pace of the disaster-relief effort.

“It’s chaos here,” said Gee Rolle, a 44-year-old construction worker who waited with his wife for a boat that could take them to the capital, Nassau.

“The government is trying their best, but at the same time, I don’t think they’re doing a good enough job to evacuate the people. It ain’t liveable for nobody. Only animals can live here.”

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The portico of a house destroyed by Hurricane Dorian is the only thing left standing (Ramon Espinosa)

The Bahamian health ministry said helicopters and boats were on the way, but officials warned of delays because of severe flooding.

The search for victims and survivors went on, meanwhile, five days after Dorian hit the Bahamas with 185 mph winds that obliterated countless homes.

Officials said 30 people have been confirmed dead, but the toll is sure to rise.

At the port, some of those who lined up behind a yellow cloth tape arrived as early as 1am, hoping to get to Nassau.

“It’s going to get crazy soon,” said Serge Simon, 39, who drives an ice truck and waited with his wife and two sons, five months old and four years.

“There’s no food, no water. There are bodies in the water. People are going to start getting sick.”

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Fernley Cooper, hand in hand with his daughter Grace, walks with what they could recover from their house (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

There were no government-organised evacuations yet, but the Royal Bahamas Defence Force helped people board a 139ft ferry that had come to pick up its employees and had room for an additional 160 people.

The crowd waited calmly as marines separated women and children to let them board first.

Also, a barge that had dropped off portable toilets and heavy equipment in Abaco took some 300 people to Nassau.

Prime minister Hubert Minnis spoke to the crowd at the port, using a Creole interpreter for a group of Haitians awaiting evacuation, and assured them: “All of you will be treated with respect.”

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People wait in Marsh Harbour Port to be evacuated to Nassau (Gonzalo Gaudenzi/AP)

Mr Minnis said he was satisfied with the speed of the government’s response and told the storm victims: “All I need you to do is just be patient and wait because everybody is coming.”

An array of organisations, countries and companies – including the United Nations, the US government, the Royal Navy, American Airlines and Royal Caribbean – have mobilised to send in food, water, generators, roof tarpaulins, nappies, torches and other supplies.

On hard-hit Grand Bahama Island, a long line formed at a cruise ship that had docked to distribute food and water.

Among those waiting was Wellisy Taylor, a 65-year-old housewife.

“What we have to do as Bahamians, we have to band together. If your brother needs sugar, you’re going to have to give him sugar. If you need cream, they’ll have to give you cream,” she said.

“That’s how I grew up. That’s the Bahamas that I know.”

PA Media

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