Conditions are growing increasingly dire in the Bahamas almost a week after Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Caribbean nation.
Food, water and other supplies are rapidly running out, and residents are waiting desperately to evacuate the devastated Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama. Officials announced late Friday that the death toll had risen to 43, with 35 dead in Abaco and eight in Grand Bahama.
"We acknowledge that there are many missing and that the number of deaths is expected to significantly increase," Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in a statement late Friday. "This is one of the stark realities we are facing in this hour of darkness."
Bill Albury is among the many residents who lost everything in the storm. The sixth-generation Bahamian spoke to Weekend Edition last Sunday as the storm was approaching his home in Marsh Harbour, and again on Friday, soon after he arrived in Palm Beach, Fla., on a private charter plane.
"Other than a few aches and pains, physically I'm gonna be fine, but my wife and I have been through quite a trauma and not only us, but everyone in the Abacos are quite distressed and devastated," he said. "Never seen anything like this in my entire life of 60-odd years."
Albury, his wife and four pets escaped their crumbling home during the eye of the storm and sheltered in a neighbor's home, one of the few in Marsh Harbour that survived.
National Security Minister Marvin Dames said that the runway at Grand Bahama airport has reopened, as well as all ports on that island and Abaco, according to The Associated Press, and hundreds of Bahamians have crowded those areas looking for anyway out. As many Bahamians expressed ire over the meager pace of relief efforts, Dames urged residents to be patient as officials struggle to reach areas isolated by severe flooding and debris.
"It's going to get crazy soon," Serge Simon, 39, told the AP as he waited with his wife and two sons, 5 months old and 4, at the port in Great Abaco. "There's no food, no water. There are bodies in the water. People are going to start getting sick."
While no official evacuations have been launched, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force helped people fill extra seats on a ferry that arrived in Abaco to pick up staff and another boat that sailed there to drop off portable toilets and heavy equipment, the AP reported.
A number of countries and international organizations — including the United Nations, the U.S. government, the British Royal Navy and American Airlines — have also organized to bring aid and supplies to the hardest-hit areas.
Search and rescue missions continue five days after the Category 5 storm struck and lingered, its 185-mile-per-hour winds destroying large swaths of Abaco and Grand Bahama. The U.S. Coast Guard said it has rescued 239 people so far and is still looking for survivors.
Dorian's wind was so powerful that one of Albury's shuttered windows broke. As the pressure increased inside, their entire house began to come apart.
"Once we released the window and the pressure changed inside the house, it was like diving to depths that you couldn't imagine. Your eardrums felt like they were caving in," Albury said. "And then we started to notice that parts of the house were coming from the upstairs to the downstairs."
The force of the wind was so strong that Albury said he and his wife couldn't open their back door to reach a concrete bunker underneath the house. As they stood in that tiny alcove near the back door, Albury said they had just about given up, until the winds weakened in the eye of the storm.
"We were praying and hugging and thinking that it was maybe a farewell," he said. "But I honestly still had faith, even though my wife might have not felt the same way, I encouraged her to hang in, and luckily something changed."