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Hurricane Dorian left at least 40 dead and 70,000 homeless in the Bahamas, and recovery efforts have devolved into 'chaos'

Ellen Cranley , Business Insider US
 Sep 08, 2019, 03:30 PM
Hurricane Dorian moves slowly past Grand Bahama Island on September 2, 2019.
  • Hurricane Dorian landed over the Bahamas on September 1 as a Category 5 storm and proceeded to dump relentless amounts of rain and wind on certain areas.
  • At least 40 people have died since the hurricane struck and 700,000 were left homeless after the storm devastated the country's Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.
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Hurricane Dorian made landfall over the Bahamas on September 1 as a Category 5 storm before dumping relentless amounts of rain and wind on the Bahamas, causing widespread flooding and devastation over the next several days.

At least 40 people have died since the hurricane struck the Bahamas last weekend, and 70,000 were left homeless after the storm devastated the country's Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.

Ahead of the storm's landfall, experts found it difficult to forecast, but Dorian quickly proved to be a devastating combination for the low-lying islands as it moved at a walking pace, brewing over the islands and sending 15-20 foot (4 -6 metres) storm surges that overwhelmed the communities.

Horrified residents watched as Dorian moved at a walking pace, pummeling certain islands with relentless amounts of rain and wind for several days.

The storm was slow to move through the Caribbean to the United States, meaning it dumped more rain on the same area for a longer time, causing more damage.

At least 40 people have been reported as killed, and the death toll could rise as rescuers search ravaged neighborhoods, homes, and roads on the country's islands, including Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Duane Sands, the Bahamian Minister of Health, said the death toll "could be staggering."

"We are in the midst of a historic tragedy," Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said, according to The New York Times. "Our focus is search, rescue, and recovery. I ask for your prayers for those in affected areas and for our first responders."

Bahamians grew frustrated as the government's rescue resources fell short, and pursued search and rescue missions among the badly hit areas themselves.

Dr. Crystal deGregory, a historian and former professor, told Insider she was on vacation in her native Bahamas on the Grand Bahama Island through the storm, where she saw conditions quickly deteriorate.

"We made all the preparations that we could and I thought we would just sit and wait," she said. "But as the news came in from Abaco we knew that this was going to be something that was different about this storm, that it would be unlike any storm that any probably living Bahamian have ever faced before."

Residents said the recovery efforts are in shambles, and they're growing increasingly fearful of catching diseases or running out of food and water.

"It's chaos here," Gee Rolle, a 44-year-old construction worker, told the Associated Press. "The government is trying their best, but at the same time, I don't think they're doing a good enough job to evacuate the people. It ain't livable for nobody. Only animals can live here."

Another Bahamian, 39-year-old Serge Simon, told the news outlet that "it's going to get crazy soon.

"There's no food, no water. There are bodies in the water. People are going to start getting sick," he said.

Several cruise lines stepped up to transport supplies and even offer evacuees a ride out of the most devastated areas.

The Grand Celebration Humanitarian Cruise ship had around 1,550 Hurricane Dorian evacuees from the Bahamas on board Saturday to sail back to West Palm Beach, Florida, according to the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines' Facebook page.

The cruise line joined the Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival lines in sending supplies including generators, water, cleaning supplies, clean sheets, and towels for Bahamians.

Royal Caribbean announced in a tweet that it had delivered more than 43,000 water bottles and 10,000 meals to the Bahamas Thursday, and would be donating $1 million (R14 million) to recovery efforts in the country. Norwegian also pledged to spend $1 million (R14 million) to help the islands. Carnival announced it will donate $2 million (R29 million) on behalf of the organisation and other partners.

More than 1,100 Bahamian residents arrived safely in Florida on the Celebration early Saturday, and were greeted by emergency and medical personnel.

The cruise line told Insider in a statement that it had spent a full day clearing potential evacuees by vetting visa and passport information.

Evacuees who arrived in Florida told CNN that they were relieved to be out of the storm, but some were still missing family members and knew that recovery efforts were far from over.

Many of the evacuees met family members or headed nearby to see family, but 50 of the storm survivors will be housed at a shelter, Palm Beach County officials told CNN.

Palm Beach County agencies are procuring clothing, hygiene kits, wellness, and mental health services in conjunction with The Red Cross and the United Way for those staying in shelters, CNN reported.

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