Bahamian: US and British teams ramped up rescue efforts on Wednesday for survivors of Hurricane Dorian, which caused widespread devastation as it pounded the Atlantic archipelago. AFP News reported on Wednesday
Bahamians were using jet skis and boats to pluck victims from homes flooded and pulverized by the heavy rain and lashing winds of one of the most powerful storms on record.
The US Coast Guard and Britain’s Royal Navy pitched in with helicopters, conducting medical evacuations, aerial assessments to help coordinate relief efforts, and reconnaissance flights to assess damage.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said it was preparing a “major emergency relief effort” for an estimated 76,000 people affected by the storm on Grand Bahama and Abaco islands.
Seven deaths have been reported but Bahamian officials said they expected the number of fatalities to go up.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called it “one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history.”
“There’s severe flooding, there’s severe damage to homes, businesses, other buildings and infrastructure,” Minnis said.
Aerial footage showed scenes of catastrophic damage with hundreds of homes missing roofs, cars submerged or overturned, widespread flooding and boats reduced to matchwood.
As rescue efforts gathered steam, Dorian remained a dangerous Category 2 storm threatening the US east coast states of Georgia and South and North Carolina.
At Nassau airport, the thump of helicopter blades could be heard starting at first light as aircrews headed off on rescue missions.
Ambulances were waiting at the airport to take injured survivors to local hospitals and a crowd had gathered anxiously awaiting news of friends and family.
Three young women, students in Nassau whose families live on the north of Abaco island, were among those in the crowd.
“All that we have — that we had — is on that island,” said Meghan Bootle, 21. “We have nothing left.”
– Unaccounted for –
Her sister, Raevyn Bootle, 18, said many injured residents were waiting to get out of Abaco.
“We hope the government will give clearance to land the planes, send the boats and help the people off of the island,” she said.
Their cousin, Martysta Turnquest, 25, said they come from a part of Abaco that has not been heard from since Sunday, when Dorian settled over the island as a Category 5 storm and stayed there for two days.
“There’s still countless people from other settlements that are not accounted for,” Turnquest said. “They do not have cellphone service, satellite phone access.”
The US Coast Guard said four MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters had airlifted 19 injured people from the Marsh Harbour clinic on devastated Abaco island to Nassau International Airport on Tuesday.
A British landing ship, the RFA Mounts Bay, launched boats carrying relief supplies for Marsh Harbour and Britain’s Department for International Development said it had deployed a team of three humanitarian experts.
The Bahamas, a former British colony, gained its independence in 1973 and is a member of the Commonwealth.
Stephen McAndrew, the IFRC deputy regional director for the Americas, said “speed is of the essence” in conducting rescue operations.
“Now that Dorian is moving away from the Bahamas, there is a window of opportunity to save lives and begin to ease the suffering of these communities,” McAndrew said in a statement.
Dorian, which dumped as much as 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain on the Bahamas, was downgraded Tuesday morning to a Category 2 hurricane on the five-level wind scale.
But the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said it remained a “powerful hurricane.”
At 11:00 am (1500 GMT), Dorian was packing winds of 105 miles per hour (165 kilometers per hour) and located about 90 miles east-northeast of Daytona Beach, Florida moving in a north-northwest direction at nine mph (15 kph).