US braced as 'catastrophic' hurricane crashes into Bahamas
Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas as a catastrophic category five storm yesterday, its record 295kmh winds ripping off roofs, overturning cars and tearing down power lines as hundreds hunkered down in schools, churches and shelters.
Dorian slammed into Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands at 12:40pm local time, and then made a second landfall near Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island at 2pm, after authorities made last-minute pleas for those in low-lying areas to evacuate.
"It's devastating," said Joy Jibrilu, head of the Bahamas' Ministry of Tourism and Aviation. "There has been huge damage to property. Luckily, no loss of life reported."
With its maximum sustained winds of 295kmh and gusts up to 355kmh, Dorian has equalled the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to come ashore, tying with a storm in 1935.
Millions of US citizens from Florida northwards were keeping a wary eye on the slow-moving Dorian amid indications it would veer sharply north-east after passing the Bahamas and track up the US south-east seaboard.
But authorities warned that even if its core did not make US landfall, the potent storm was likely to hammer the coast with powerful winds and heavy surf.
South Carolina's governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation of the state's coast.
The only recorded storm that was more powerful was Hurricane Allen in 1980, with its 305kmh winds. That storm did not make landfall.
"Catastrophic conditions" were reported in the Abaco Islands, with a storm surge of five to seven metres, according to the US National Hurricane Centre.
In some parts of Abaco, "you cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street versus where the ocean begins," said Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.