LISTEN LIVE

Distress And Desperation In The Bahamas As Dorian Death Toll Expected To Keep Rising

Sep 7, 2019
Originally published on September 9, 2019 8:35 am

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."

Hundreds wait at the port of Marsh Harbour in the hopes of boarding a boat to Nassau after the town on Abaco in the Bahamas was decimated by Hurricane Dorian.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR
Malida Chereme, 67, tried to cool off her face while waiting in Marsh Harbour. "I'm going anywhere I find," Chereme said. "I have a visa for Miami."
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

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.

After the Category 5 storm slammed into the Bahamas this week, residents had to deal with wrecked houses and boats that came ashore.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR
Residents of Marsh Harbour who survived Hurricane Dorian leave messages on their door to let loved ones and officials know they are OK.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR
Judy Roker chats with friend John Battles Tate after stocking up on basic provisions, like water, toilet paper and canned goods from Abaco Groceries in Marsh Harbour.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

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."

Amalia Calixte, 88, who is unable to walk on her own, is among those waiting desperately to evacuate the devastated islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR
Roselie Petit (right) holds Tristan while she and her other children Laura (left) and Lyana wait at the port of Marsh Harbour, where few buildings were left intact and basic supplies are dwindling.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

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.

As people wait to leave, search-and-rescue missions continue five days after the Category 5 storm struck and lingered, prolonging the destruction.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR
Tim Sands leaves a note for his relatives hoping to connect after Dorian forced residents to abandon their homes.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR
Haitian Manes Lundy wipes off a pair of new shoes that he procured after all his belongings were destroyed. He lives in an area called The Mudd, home to about 8,000 Haitians. "I have plenty of family dead here," Lundy said. "That is the body of my cousin Doudoune Manes, but I don't have a way to bury her."
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

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."

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
Geno and Medilia Raymonville wait to leave in Marsh Harbour. Food, water and other supplies are rapidly running out.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR
While no official evacuations have been launched, Royal Bahamas Defence Force has helped people fill extra seats on boats that have reached the islands, according to The Associated Press.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR