Wednesday 18 September 2019

Fears for lives of thousands still missing in Bahamas after Dorian

Despair: Aliana Alexis stands on the concrete slab of what is left of her home after destruction from Hurricane Dorian in an area called ‘The Mud’ at Marsh Harbour in Great Abaco Island, Bahamas. Photo: Al Diaz/Miami Herald/AP
Despair: Aliana Alexis stands on the concrete slab of what is left of her home after destruction from Hurricane Dorian in an area called ‘The Mud’ at Marsh Harbour in Great Abaco Island, Bahamas. Photo: Al Diaz/Miami Herald/AP

Rozina Sabur

Thousands of people were last night awaiting rescue on the battered islands of the Bahamas after they were pulverised by Hurricane Dorian.

The islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, which have been largely demolished by the savage storm, were among the worst-hit.

Destroyed: It is not clear how many were able to evacuate. Photo: REUTERS/Marco Bello
Destroyed: It is not clear how many were able to evacuate. Photo: REUTERS/Marco Bello

The death toll last night stood at 20, but it is feared that it will rise, with concerns for the lives and safety of thousands who are listed as missing by their families who are anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones.

The UN estimated more than 76,000 people were in need of humanitarian relief.

Aerial footage of Abaco in the northern Bahamas showed widespread devastation, with the harbour, businesses, a hospital and airport landing strips damaged or decimated, frustrating rescue efforts.

Gaylele Laing broke down in tears and embraced her niece after she was rescued from Abaco yesterday.

As a diabetic who had run out of medicine, she was given a priority rescue, but she was barely able to speak as she revealed that she had to leave her family members, including her grandchildren, aged 11 and 12, behind.

The Treasure Quay resident told the 'Daily Telegraph' through tears: "It was terrible. There is total devastation, there is nothing left. We hid in the bathroom as the eye of the storm passed and then the water surge came.

"We never expected it to be that bad. We had to break the window and swim to safety. The whole family, the kids included. At that point I thought we were going to die. We did as much as we could to prepare, and if we had known it was going to be that bad we would have left Abaco.

"We have been though hurricanes before, but nothing like this. Everything is gone."

Ramond King, another survivor on Abaco, said he watched as swirling winds ripped the roof off his house, then churned to a neighbour's home to pluck the entire structure into the sky. "Everything is gone, just bodies," he said.

Dorian continued to cause substantial damage as it hit the US coastal states of South and North Carolina yesterday, leaving 239,000 homes and businesses without power.

The US National Hurricane Centre warned it remained a category 2 hurricane with winds reaching 175kmh and the risk of life-threatening storm surges, winds and flash flooding. Tornadoes spun off by Dorian were also reported along the coast, including Emerald Isle, North Carolina, where several homes were destroyed.

The beach town said the tornado hit at around 9am yesterday leaving dozens of mobile homes upturned and power lines down.

As rescue crews continued to look for and evacuate people from the devastated islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, relatives and friends were trying desperately to find loved ones in the Bahamas.

Access to the battered northern islands, where the storm caused catastrophic damage, has been limited. Search and rescue teams, including the US Coast Guard and British Royal Navy, were on the islands looking for survivors.

But amid communication lapses and widespread devastation, news about individuals is slow to arrive and difficult to find, so thousands of people have taken to social media to track down their kin.

One site - dorianpeoplesearch.com - started trying to help on Sunday night when a realtor in Nassau said she saw a growing need even while the hurricane was still hitting the islands.

By Wednesday, friends and family members of more than 5,500 people still missing had posted on Vanessa Pritchard-Ansell's site.

One woman was listed as "last seen - Murphy Town by Change Ministries Church - needs insulin".

"There have been people on dialysis, there was a woman in labour," Ms Pritchard-Ansell said. "Another woman who had a five-week-old baby."

"When you see that somebody has been found and their family knows where they are, you feel a moment of elation," she added. "But you also know that there are so many thousands of others who have not been accounted for."

There are around 70,000 people who live on the Abaco islands and Grand Bahama combined. It is unclear how many were able to evacuate particularly vulnerable areas, such as 'The Mud' , a low-lying shanty town in Marsh Harbour that authorities said was completely destroyed.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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