FREEPORT, Bahamas (AP) — U.N. and Red Cross relief officials rushed to deal with an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Hurricane Dorian’s wake Tuesday after the most powerful storm ever to hit the Bahamas devastated thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and trapped people in attics. At least five deaths were reported, with the full scope of the disaster still unknown.
Relief workers reported scenes of utter ruin, while emergency authorities struggled to reach victims amid conditions too dangerous even for rescue workers, and urged people to hang on.
“We wanted to go out there, but that’s not a risk we’re capable of taking,” Tammy Mitchell of the Bahamas’ National Emergency Management Agency told ZNS Bahamas radio station. “We don’t want people thinking we’ve forgotten them. … We know what your conditions are. We know if you’re stuck in an attic.”
Practically parking over the Bahamas for a day and a half, Dorian pounded the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama with winds up to 185 mph (295 kph) and torrential rain before finally moving into open waters on a course for Florida. Its winds were down to a still-dangerous 110 mph (175 kph).
Over 2 million people along the coast in Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina were warned to evacuate. While the threat of a direct hit on Florida had all but evaporated, Dorian was expected to pass dangerously close to Georgia and South Carolina — and perhaps strike North Carolina — on Thursday or Friday.
MARSH HARBOUR, Bahamas, Sept 3 (Reuters) – The slow-moving hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record, pounded Grand Bahama Island on Tuesday and was forecast to come “dangerously close” to Florida’s coast by the day’s end.
Dorian has been pounding the Bahamas for days, killing at least five people in the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas and inundating homes with floodwater ahead of its expected advance on the U.S. coast, where more than a million people have been ordered evacuated.
But the hurricane weakened to a Category 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale early on Tuesday, with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour (195 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It was moving northwest at 1 mile per hour (1.6 kph), well below walking speed.
The exact toll of the devastation in the Bahamas will not be clear until the storm passes and rescue crews can get on the ground.
“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of our northern Bahamas,” Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told a news conference on Monday. “Our mission and focus now is search, rescue and recovery.”