Reports from the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian are dire in the Bahamas, with a death toll now at 43 and expected to increase in coming hours and days. According to CNN, hundreds of Bahamians are still missing, likely buried in rubble nearly a week after the Category 5 storm pummeled the northern Bahamian islands.
An estimated 70,000 people have been left homeless.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said residents are facing an “hour of darkness,” the Associated Press reported.
“We acknowledge that there are many missing and that the number of deaths is expected to significantly increase,” he said, according to the AP.
Security Minister Marvin Dames said officials had never before seen such a level of devastation.
Survivors waiting to be evacuated to the capital, Nassau, said Friday that Grand Abaco, one of the hardest-hit areas, was uninhabitable. “Only animals can live here,” one man, a construction worker, told the AP.
Others told NBC News they had waded through dangerous waters with several bodies floating by as they sought shelter and safety.
The Nassau Guardian noted that the “stench of death lingers throughout Marsh Harbour, Abaco.” An air-conditioned trailer set up behind a government-run health clinic many miles away serves as a makeshift morgue. Its workers are overwhelmed, the newspaper said.
A resident of Abaco told CNN, “It was like an atomic bomb went off.”
The Washington Post reported that time is “running out” to save stranded hurricane victims.
“We need food, we need shelter. We need help, right now,” Marsh Harbour resident Eddie Peredema told the newspaper.
Several countries, aid organizations, and companies are assisting in the efforts, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations, the British Royal Navy, American Airlines, and Royal Caribbean, among others.
As of Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard had conducted 208 rescues. Crews found gut-wrenching devastation.
Per the Post:
A 5-month-old was “starving,” one report said. A 90-year-old man had a broken back, read another. Two diabetics, two children and one spouse, read a third. A woman somewhere on a baseball field had a decreasing heart rate. A 60-year-old man needed dialysis, and a 400-pound man was suffering from blood clots.
George F. Menze, a Coast Guard pilot, said he wished there were a clinic closer to the affected islands than the hospital in Nassau, a trip that can take 45 minutes by helicopter. But he said the response is typical for a hurricane as devastating as Dorian, which he said was “like a giant tornado.”
The Nassau Guardian wrote about “those who are scarred: mentally, physically and emotionally.”
Per the newspaper:
One woman roamed the runway at the now-flooded Marsh Harbour International Airport.
She said nothing, only screamed in apparent agony.
Men and women at the airport and the clinic moaned in pain.
Some had visible wounds, like a man with an infected gash on his leg.
Others only stared, still processing their traumatic experiences from the storm.
Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas on Sunday afternoon as a Category 5 hurricane, with winds raging at 185 mph. Once there, it stalled out over Grand Bahama island for a staggering 40 hours. According to the Post, “This may have been the longest siege of violent, destructive weather ever unleashed on a single location.”
The storm weakened as it later moved north along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. As a Category 1 storm, Dorian made landfall over North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Friday morning, leaving some 350,000 people without power in North and South Carolina, according to CBS News.
It caused “catastrophic” flooding on Ocracoke Island before later moving out to sea. It is now heading toward eastern Canada.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Saturday morning took to Twitter to woefully downplay the number of casualties in the Bahamas and—unsurprisingly—to praise himself.
“Thank you to Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis for your very gracious and kind words in saying that without the help of the United States and me, their would have been many more casualties,” he tweeted.
For information about how to donate or volunteer to relief efforts, a Bahamas Hurricane Relief Fund has been established at hurricanereliefbahamas.com.
This post was updated with Trump’s tweets.