Hurricane Dorian lays waste to the Bahamas as US coastal states brace for its landfall
Hurricane Dorian battered Grand Bahama Island yesterday and was forecast to come "dangerously close" to the Florida coast.
Slow-moving Dorian has been pounding the Bahamas for days, killing at least five people in the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas and inundating homes.
The exact extent of the devastation in the Bahamas will not be clear until the storm has passed and rescue crews can get on the ground.
But as many as 13,000 homes are believed to have been destroyed.
"We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of our northern Bahamas," Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said. "Our mission and focus now is search, rescue and recovery."
He added that the US Coast Guard was in Abaco and had rescued a number of injured individuals. Critically injured people were taken to hospitals on New Providence, the country's most populous island.
Dorian was yesterday moving northwest at 1mph (1.6kmh), well below walking speed.
Although it has weakened to a Category 3 with maximum sustained winds of 120mph (190kmh) and is forecast to stay off Florida, experts said the state was not out of danger yet.
"It's not that far off shore," said Robbie Berg, a specialist with the National Hurricane Centre. "All it has to do is jog a little bit west and you have a full-on hurricane rolling through Florida."
Dorian was expected to churn towards Florida by the end of yesterday, before bringing its powerful winds and dangerous surf along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Nine counties in Florida have issued mandatory evacuation orders.
They included parts of Duval County, home to Jacksonville, one of Florida's biggest cities, and some areas in Palm Beach County, home to Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis urged coastal residents too heed evacuation orders.
Among those leaving their homes was Sue Watson, a 93-year-old resident of a retirement community in Kissimmee in central Florida.
"I was all set to stay home until they had to turn the water off," said Watson, who said she hoped the storm spared her community.
The storm was causing havoc for travellers on Florida's east coast, where some airports and petrol stations were closed. Orlando International Airport, one of the largest in the state, shut down early yesterday.
It said on Twitter that reopening would depend on the progress of the storm.
Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando also closed down.
South Carolina governor Henry McMaster ordered evacuations for parts of eight coastal counties.
More than 830,000 people were under evacuation orders in Charleston and other coastal communities in the state, emergency management officials announced.
Georgia governor Brian Kemp had ordered evacuations in six coastal counties, including all of Savannah's 150,000 residents, effective on Monday.
And Virginia governor Ralph Northam also declared a state of emergency in his state on Monday, his office said, anticipating that its southeast coast could be hit by the storm tomorrow.