Officials in the Bahamas gave a “sobering outlook” as the official death toll climbed to 30 with “many more than that as the extent of the damage becomes clear”, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
CNN reports today that the first round of rescue operations “brought in body bags and coolers” while “hundreds of residents remain missing”.
Joy Jibrilu, Director General of the country’s Tourism and Aviation Ministry told CNN: “Literally hundreds, up to thousands, of people are still missing.”
Health Minister Dr Duane Sands has stated that “body bags, additional morticians and refrigerated coolers to properly store bodies are being transported to Abaco and other affected areas”.
“Four morticians in Abaco are embalming remains because officials have run out of coolers.
“The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering,” Sands said.
“And 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.”
“It’s going to be huge,” he said.
The good news in this report: “The US Coast Guard said it had rescued 201 residents as of Thursday.
“Rescues have concentrated on Bahamas’ northern islands, as international teams sent small planes and helicopters to reach those stranded and feed the displaced.”
Captain James Passarelli, the Chief of staff of the Coast Guard’s 7th District, told CNN: “Our emergent priority is to get the critically wounded out and help the government of the Bahamas get the infrastructure back up so it’s safe, sanitary and livable — at least on a temporary basis — for those folks.”
According to the US Agency for International Development said: “Teams from Los Angeles and Fairfax, Virginia, are also helping survivors on the hard-hit Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama.”
Bahamian Minister of National Security, Marvin Dames said a British naval vessel joined the effort on Wednesday.
The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates at least 60,000 people “may be in dire need of food relief”.
“At least eight metric tons of food of ‘ready to eat’ meals would be brought in the next three months,” said the WFP.
They are organising “an airlift of storage units and generators that will be brought to the Bahamas from Panama.”
“Dorian, the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Bahamas, wiped out whole neighborhoods, then lingered for days, pounding the same battered places again and again,” the report said.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis added: “Though the storm targeted only a small section the Bahamas”, it still inflicted “generational devastation”.
Nearly 140 US Coast Guard personnel have responded so far with more help on the way.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are on the ground receiving supplies in Nassau on Thursday.
A statement released yesterday said: “Getting relief to people in need is our number one priority.
“We are doing everything we can to get aid to hard-to-reach places in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.”
Relief efforts “were hampered by damaged roads and telecommunications infrastructure”, the statement added.
Faced with “limited access to important resources”, the report said: “The only international airport on the island of Grand Bahama was devastated and cannot serve as a staging ground for medical evacuations or emergency aid deliveries.
CNN’s Patrick Oppman said: “After two days of trying, we’re finally able to get into the Freeport airport. It’s gone. … The level of devastation is actually breathtaking.
“There are no walls left at the airport. The ceiling has come crashing.”
In the Abacos, the Prime Minister said “60 percent of homes in the town of Marsh Harbour” were damaged.
“There are no words to convey the grief we feel for our fellow Bahamians in the Abacos and Grand Bahama,” said Dionisio D’Aguilar, Minister of Tourism and Aviation.
The hotels on the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands are closed, but most of the other islands are open for tourists, he added.
Lia Head-Rigby, who runs a relief group and overflew the Abacos, told the Associated Press: “It’s total devastation. It’s decimated. Apocalyptic.
Aerial images over the Abacos “showed mile upon mile of destruction, with roofs torn off, scattered debris, overturned cars, shipping containers and boats, and high water levels”.
One woman evacuated from the area said: “People are starting to panic: pillaging, looting… it’s just no way everyone’s going to get out.”
International Red Cross officials say “some 13,000 properties – have been severely damaged or destroyed.”
UN officials say: “Some 60,000 people will need food aid and clean water.”
Meanwhile, millions were ordered to evacuate as Dorian ran “parallel to the Florida and Georgia coasts” on Wednesday night, then “near or over the coasts of the Carolinas through Thursday and Friday.
The National Hurricane Center warned “there was a danger of life-threatening storm surges for coastal communities north of Port Canaveral in Florida all the way to the North Carolina-Virginia border”.
“Dorian is expected to weaken over the next few days but will remain a powerful hurricane.”
Feature Photo: Damage from Dorian on Great Abaco Island is seen in this aerial image released by the UK Ministry of Defence
An aerial view Thursday shows damage caused by Hurricane Dorian on Great Abaco Island