Death toll from devastating Hurricane Dorian rises to 43

‘Number of deaths is expected to significantly increase,’ concedes Bahamas prime minister

Survivors of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas thronged rescue helicopters as the United Nations said 70,000 people needed immediate humanitarian relief after one of the most powerful Caribbean storms on record devastated the island. Video: Reuters

 

Search-and-rescue teams were still trying to reach some Bahamian communities isolated by floodwaters and debris after Hurricane Dorian, as the death toll rose to 43.

Officials said the number was likely to increase.

Prime minister Hubert Minnis said late on Friday that 35 were known to be dead on Abaco Island and eight in Grand Bahama.

“We acknowledge that there are many missing and that the number of deaths is expected to significantly increase,” he said. “This is one of the stark realities we are facing in this hour of darkness.”

On Saturday, several hundred people, many of them Haitian immigrants, waited at Abaco’s Marsh Harbour in the hope of leaving the disaster zone on vessels arriving with aid.

Bahamian security forces were organising evacuations on a landing craft. Other boats, including yachts and other private craft, were also helping to evacuate people.

Avery Parotti (19) and her partner Stephen Chidles (26) had been waiting at the port since 1am.

During the hurricane, waves lifted a yacht that smashed against a cement wall, which in turn collapsed on their home and destroyed it.

“There’s nothing left here. There are no jobs,” said Ms Parotti, who hopes to start a new life in the United States, where she has relatives.

Security minister Marvin Dames said authorities were striving to reach everyone, but the crews could not just bulldoze their way through fallen trees and other rubble because there might be bodies not yet recovered.

“We have been through this before, but not at this level of devastation,” said Mr Dames.

He expressed understanding for the complaints of people who are calling for help after having their lives shattered by Dorian, but he urged patience for efforts by authorities to get in humanitarian aid.

Mobilisation to aid survivors

The search for victims and survivors went on nearly a week after Dorian hit the Bahamas with 298km/h (185mph) winds that obliterated countless homes.

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.

Mr Dames said the runway at the airport on Grand Bahama island had been cleared and was ready for flights.

Authorities also said that all ports had been reopened on that island and Abaco, both of which were devastated by the category five storm.

On Grand Bahama, a long line formed at a cruise ship that had docked to distribute food and water. – AP