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Hurricane Dorian: Hundreds flee chaos in storm-ravaged Bahamas

Hurricane Dorian survivors board private boats to be evacuated from Great Abaco IslandImage copyright
Getty Images

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Hurricane Dorian survivors board private boats to be evacuated from Great Abaco Island

Hundreds of Hurricane Dorian survivors have fled the Bahamas as thousands more anxiously await evacuation from the devastated islands.

The hurricane tore through the islands earlier this week, leaving a trail of destruction and a humanitarian crisis in its wake.

The official death toll rose to 43 on Friday, but is expected to increase further, officials told local media.

With aid efforts under way, many survivors are scrambling to evacuate.

On Friday, crowds desperate to leave amassed in their thousands at ports in Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, two of the worst-hit islands.

Frustrations mounted as survivors, carrying what few possessions they had left, complained of “chaotic” and slow evacuations.

As Gee Rolle, 44, waited for a private boat with his wife, he criticised the government, telling the Associated Press “only animals can live here”.

Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, speaking to survivors at the port in Abaco, called for calm and promised more free transport.

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Getty Images

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Thousands of people are attempting to flee Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, two of the worst-hit areas

Later on Friday, Mr Minnis confirmed the death toll had risen to 43, up from 30. In a statement he said: “The loss of life we are experiencing is catastrophic and devastating.”

Now a category one hurricane, Dorian is currently churning along the Atlantic coast of North America, towards the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

Earlier on Friday, hundreds who refused to evacuate Ocracoke Island in North Carolina were stranded when the hurricane made landfall.

What’s happening with evacuations in the Bahamas?

On Friday, many of the evacuations were carried out by private boats and planes, as the Bahamian government awaited the arrival of other transport.

Helicopters and boats had been deployed but could be delayed by severe flooding, the Bahamian Health Ministry said.

Around 250 evacuees left Abaco on a boat bound for the Bahamian capital, Nassau. National Voice of the Bahamas radio reported that another boat with hundreds aboard was on its way.

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Media captionOn board a UK ship offering aid and rescue to the Bahamas

A further 200 people were evacuated from Abaco on Bahamasair flights.

In Grand Bahama, a large cruise ship offering free passage to Florida allowed passengers with permission to enter the US to board.

  • Dorian: Who is helping the survivors?

One survivor, 75-year-old Firstina Swain, told Reuters news agency the “people of Abaco need to get out” because “there are too many bodies”.

“Nobody can help anybody in Abaco, there’s no place safe, everything is destroyed,” she said.

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Media captionSurvivors of the hurricane say there is utter devastation

According to the UN, at least 70,000 Bahamians are in need of immediate humanitarian relief after their homes were destroyed by the hurricane. The islands have a population of about 400,000.

The PM and his government have been criticised for the speed of their response to the humanitarian crisis.

Chaotic air traffic control is said to be hampering relief and evacuations operations, the Miami Herald reports.

Where is Hurricane Dorian now?

At 08:00 local time on Saturday (12:00 GMT Saturday) Dorian was south of Maine, moving north-east.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) earlier said Dorian was moving towards Nova Scotia “in a hurry”.

“On the forecast track, the centre of Dorian should pass to the southeast of extreme southeastern New England Saturday morning, and then across Nova Scotia late Saturday,” the NHC said.

Forecasters said 10in (25 cm) of rain had fallen between Charleston in South Carolina and Wilmington, 170 miles away in North Carolina.

What is the damage to the Bahamas?

Dorian hit the Bahamas as a category five hurricane with winds reaching 185mph (298km/h). It matched the highest ever wind speed recorded at landfall, and stayed over affected areas for two days.

Officials say hundreds, possibly thousands, are still missing and the final death toll could be “staggering”.

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Getty Images

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Great Abaco has been rendered virtually uninhabitable

The International Red Cross fears 45% of homes on Grand Bahama and the Abacos – some 13,000 properties – were severely damaged or destroyed.

Parts of the Bahamas received up to 35in (89cm) of rain, leaving vast areas flooded.

The island of Great Abaco is virtually uninhabitable, with bodies piled up, no water, power or food, and militias formed to prevent looting, local media report.

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.

Use our guide to see how these deadly storms form, their devastating effects and how they are measured:

Hurricanes

A guide to the world’s deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane – in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific – or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we’re about to get punched in the face.”
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

“Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma’s eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!”
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale – other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

“For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.”
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008


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