"We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history," said Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis
Workers in white protective suits, masks and gloves dug through the rubble in the Bahamas’ Abacos Islands before loading body bags into a flat-bed truck this week. At least 30 people in the Bahamas are dead as a result of Hurricane Dorian and children are among thousands missing as crews and public officials assess the damages, NBC News reported.
“It’s very unusual for 20 percent of the population of a country to be very severely impacted by a single event like this,” United Nations relief chief Mark Lowcock said in a statement. “The Bahamas has certainly never seen anything on the scale … a disaster of such epic proportions on a single country in a single incident is very, very unusual.”
Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas on Sunday, causing “extreme destruction.” Structures have been completely flattened, with as many as 13,000 homes destroyed, NBC reported, citing the International Committee of the Red Cross. The death toll is expected to rise as crews inspect the damage.
“The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering,” Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands told Guardian Radio 96.9 FM, according to CNN. “Make no bones about it, the numbers will be far higher … It’s just a matter of retrieving those bodies, making sure we understand how they died. It seems like we are splitting hairs, but not everyone who died, died in the storm.”
Sands said morticians in Abaco have been embalming remains because crews have run out of coolers.
By Wednesday, officials lifted tropical storm warnings for the Abacos Islands, Grand Bahama, Bimini, and other islands, the Washington Post reported. But the end of the storm’s wrath in the area only marked the beginning of recovery efforts.
“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history,” Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said on Tuesday, according to the Post. He added on NPR’s All Things Considered: “Abaco was essentially decimated … Thousands of individuals are now homeless.”
The U.S. Coast Guard said it had rescued 205 Bahamas residents by Friday, with efforts concentrated on the northern islands, according to CNN. International teams deployed helicopters and small planes to rescue stranded survivors. This week, 34-year-old Jensen Borrows, gathered a group of people in Freeport, Bahamas, to transport survivors to safety using jet skis, WLKY reported. The effort is credited with saving over 100 people.
Several agencies are providing food and supplies to Bahamas residents, and several people remained in shelters this week, the Associated Press reported. Various groups and individuals have vowed to help in recovery efforts, with the Walt Disney Company donating more than $1 million and Rihanna vowing to provide aid through her non-profit, the Clara Lionel Foundation.
“I want to thank all the first responders who are acting with courage to save lives and rescue those in need,” Minnis said in a tweet. “We are seeing bravery and fortitude of Bahamians who endured hours and days of horror. Our urgent task will be to provide food, water, shelter and safety and security.”
After ravaging the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane, Dorian headed to the U.S. and eventually weakened to Category 1.
Dorian lashed the east coast of central Florida on Tuesday with maximum sustained winds at 110mph winds east of Melbourne, the National Hurricane Center said at the time.
Forecasters said Dorian could damage the Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina coasts, even if didn’t make landfall. However, the storm wound up making landfall Friday morning over Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, as a Category 1 hurricane, bringing the possibility of a “life-threatening storm surge” and dangerous winds, the Center said.
“Get to safety and stay there,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said during a media briefing. “This won’t be a brush-by. Whether it comes ashore or not, the eye of the storm will be close enough to cause extensive damage in North Carolina.”