Bahamian officials have denied covering up the number of deaths in the wake of Hurricane Dorian that left a path of destruction in parts of the island chain last week.

BBC news reports today that officials “have defended their response” after “residents  on the Abaco Islands “accused the government of failing to provide assistance and prevent looting.

The death toll currently stands at 45 and is “likely to rise as hundreds, possibly thousands, of people are still missing,” the report said.

The United Nations estimates “some 70,000 people were in need of food and shelter”.

Residents from the “hardest-hit areas in the Abacos have been sent to the country’s capital, Nassau, where authorities say they may have to use tents or containers to house the victims”.

“Health Minister Duane Sands dismissed allegations that the government was covering up the number of victims, saying the priority was not to count the dead but to search for the missing and provide assistance to those in need,” according to the Miami Herald

Residents “warn us that there are more bodies buried beneath the rubble in Marsh Harbour, especially in the shanty towns known as the Mudd and Pigeon Peas.

“They wonder why officials haven’t come to retrieve all those who perished during Hurricane Dorian,” the report added.

“As you walk around the town, there is very little in terms of any official presence. In fact, there’s hardly anyone at all – just a scattering of locals looking through what once was their homes, or rummaging for food or supplies.

“On the hood of a car in one of the worst-hit areas lies the corpse of a large dog, untouched since the storm. Its presence speaks to the lack of attention this area has received in the week since Dorian hit this island.”

Officials say 90 percent of the infrastructure is “damaged or destroyed” in Marsh Harbour, where “residents complained that aid had been too slow to arrive”.

One resident said: “We’ve had to funnel gasoline out of destroyed cars to get injured people back and forth. There’s no food, no medicine and no water,” said 37-year-old Tepeto Davis. “We’re suffering out here and no-one cares about us.”

“There were also fears that diarrhoea and waterborne diseases could spread as drinking water might be contaminated, the Pan American Health Organization said, but no cases of cholera had been reported.

“Mark Green, head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said he had been ‘struck by the focused nature of the devastation’ on the Abacos, and that some areas looked ‘almost as though a nuclear bomb was dropped’, the report added.

Meanwhile, roughly 3,500 were evacuated to Nassau by “passenger planes, cruise liners and government boats and ships”.

“While some were scrambling for shelter others worried that it would take a long time for them to rebuild their lives,” the report said.

Anthony Morley, 61, told Reuters news agency said: “The government says everyone’s being fed, and that’s good.

“But for food I can fish. What I need is a house. I don’t have a bed, a refrigerator.”

A spokeswoman for the Red Cross added: “People are concerned about their next step, but also how they’ll earn an income and what their lives will look like in the future.”