Storm dev­as­tates the Ba­hamas

Res­cuers strug­gle to reach vic­tims af­ter Do­rian’s ram­page

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Ramon Espinosa, Dan­ica Coto and Michael Weis­senstein

Vol­un­teers walk in the wind and rain of Hur­ri­cane Do­rian on a flooded road Tues­day af­ter res­cu­ing sev­eral fam­i­lies that ar­rived on small boats near the Causa­rina bridge in Freeport, Grand Ba­hama, Ba­hamas. The storm’s pun­ish­ing winds and muddy brown flood­wa­ters dev­as­tated thou­sands of homes, crip­pled hos­pi­tals and trapped peo­ple in at­tics.

FREEPORT, Ba­hamas — Re­lief of­fi­cials re­ported scenes of ut­ter ruin Tues­day in parts of the Ba­hamas and rushed to deal with an un­fold­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Do­rian, the most pow­er­ful storm on record ever to hit the is­lands. At least seven deaths were re­ported, with the full scope of the disas­ter still un­known.

The storm's pun­ish­ing winds and muddy brown flood­wa­ters de­stroyed or se­verely dam­aged thou­sands of homes, crip­pled hos­pi­tals and trapped peo­ple in at­tics.

“It's to­tal dev­as­ta­tion. It's dec­i­mated. Apoc­a­lyp­tic. It looks like a bomb went off,” said Lia Head-Rigby, who helps run a lo­cal hur­ri­cane re­lief or­ga­ni­za­tion and flew over the Ba­hamas' hard-hit Abaco Is­land. “It's not re­build­ing some­thing that was there; we have to start again.”

She said her rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Abaco told her that “there's a lot more dead” and that the bod­ies were being gath­ered.

Emer­gency au­thor­i­ties, mean­while, strug­gled to reach vic­tims amid con­di­tions too dan­ger­ous even for res­cue work­ers, and urged peo­ple to hang on.

“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,” Tammy Mitchell of the Ba­hamas' Na­tional Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency told ZNS Ba­hamas ra­dio sta­tion.

With their heads bowed against heavy wind and rain, res­cuers be­gan evac­u­at­ing peo­ple across Grand Ba­hama late Tues­day us­ing Jet Skis, boats and even a huge bull­dozer that cra­dled chil­dren and adults in its dig­ger as it cut through deep muddy wa­ters and car­ried them to safety.

One res­cuer gen­tly scooped up an el­derly man in his arms and walked to­ward a pickup truck wait­ing to evac­u­ate him and oth­ers to higher ground.

Prac­ti­cally park­ing over a por­tion of the Ba­hamas for a day and a half, Do­rian pounded the north­ern is­lands of Abaco and Grand Ba­hama with winds up to 185 mph and tor­ren­tial rain be­fore fi­nally moving into open wa­ters Tues­day on a course for Florida. Its winds were down to a still-dan­ger­ous 110 mph.

Over 2 mil­lion peo­ple along the coast in Florida, Ge­or­gia and the Caroli­nas 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.

Even if land­fall does not oc­cur, the sys­tem is likely to cause storm surge and se­vere flood­ing, the U.S. Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said.

Do­rian is scrap­ing the cen­tral part of Florida's east coast as it tracks off­shore.

As of 8 p.m. EDT, the U.S. Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter says Do­rian is now about 110 miles east of Cape Canaveral, Florida. Max­i­mum sus­tained winds are being clocked at 110 mph. It's moving to the north­west at 6 mph.

The coast­line from north of West Palm Beach, Florida, through Ge­or­gia was ex­pected to get 3 to 6 inches of rain, with 9 inches in places, while the Caroli­nas could get 5 to 10 inches and 15 in spots, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said.

“Don't tough it out. Get out,” said Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency of­fi­cial Car­los Castillo.

In the Ba­hamas, Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane said more than 13,000 houses, or about 45% of the homes in Grand Ba­hama and Abaco, were be­lieved to have been se­verely dam­aged or de­stroyed. U.N. of­fi­cials said more than 60,000 peo­ple on the hard-hit is­lands will need food, and the Red Cross said about 62,000 will need clean drink­ing wa­ter.

“What we are hear­ing lends cre­dence to the fact that this has been a cat­a­strophic storm and a cat­a­strophic im­pact,” Cochrane said.

The Red Cross authorized a half-mil­lion dol­lars for the first wave of disas­ter re­lief, Cochrane said. And U.N. hu­man­i­tar­ian teams stood ready to go into the stricken ar­eas to help as­sess the dam­age and the coun­try's needs, U.N. spokesman Stephane Du­jar­ric said. The U.S. gov­ern­ment also sent a disas­ter re­sponse team.

Abaco and Grand Ba­hama is­lands, with a com­bined pop­u­la­tion of about 70,000, are known for their mari­nas, golf cour­ses and all-in­clu­sive re­sorts. To the south, the Ba­hamas' most pop­u­lous is­land, New Prov­i­dence, which in­cludes the cap­i­tal city, Nassau, and has over a quar­ter-mil­lion peo­ple, suf­fered lit­tle dam­age.

The U.S. Coast Guard air­lifted at least 21 peo­ple in­jured on Abaco. Res­cuers also used Jet Skis to reach some peo­ple as choppy, cof­fee-col­ored flood­wa­ters reached roofs and the tops of palm trees.

“We will con­firm what the real sit­u­a­tion is on the ground,” Health Minister Duane Sands said. “We are hop­ing and pray­ing that the loss of life is lim­ited.”

Sands said Do­rian ren­dered the main hos­pi­tal on Grand Ba­hama un­us­able, while the hos­pi­tal in Marsh Har­bor in Abaco was in need of food, wa­ter, medicine and sur­gi­cal sup­plies. He said crews were try­ing to air­lift five to seven kid­ney fail­ure pa­tients from Abaco who had not re­ceived dial­y­sis since Fri­day.

RAMON ESPINOSA/AP

TIM AYLEN/AP

Ju­lia Aylen wades through waist deep wa­ter car­ry­ing her pet dog headed to­ward safety Tues­day in Freeport, Ba­hamas.

RAMON ESPINOSA/AP

Vol­un­teers res­cue fam­i­lies, via small boats, near the Causa­rina bridge in Freeport, Grand Ba­hama.

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