THE slow-moving hurricane that hit the Bahamas with winds of 185 mph this week has been described as “an unimaginable living nightmare”.
Bishop Theophilus Rolle, President of the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands Conference of the Methodist Church, said that Hurricane Dorian had caused massive flooding and devastation. Seven people are so far known to have died, but the number is expected to rise.
Many people had left their homes to shelter in churches and community centres. Hundreds of photos of people believed to be missing after the hurricane have been posted on social media by friends and family.
Bishop Rolle told the World Council of Churches: “Hurricane Dorian has been an unimaginable living nightmare for many people; especially the 7,300 people living in Grand Bahama and Abaco in the northern Bahamas.”
He said the island of Abaco — where all the deaths so far have been recorded —was “almost demolished” by the winds, which were the highest ever to make landfall.
“Without question, the Bahamas is facing the unfolding of a national crisis. We will need tremendous help from our neighbours in the Caribbean region, the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe and around the world.”
PAVolunteers sort donated supplies inside Christ Episcopal Church, Miami, on Tuesday
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said that some areas had been “decimated” and described Dorian’s destruction as “one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history”.
The first images from helicopters taken after the hurricane showed lakes of water and debris, with very little left standing.
“Its total devastation. Its decimated. Apocalyptic,” Lia Head-Rigby, who runs a local hurricane relief organisation, told the Associated Press.
The International Red Cross fears that 45 per cent of homes on Grand Bahama and the Abacos — 13,000 properties — have been severely damaged or destroyed. At least 60,000 people will need food aid and clean water, UN officials say, but airports are under metres of water, and no aid is yet able to get through.
Radio stations reported receiving thousands of distress messages from residents, including one of a five-month-old baby stranded on a roof, and a woman and her six grandchildren who had cut a hole in a roof to escape floodwaters.
Hurricane Dorian has been unusually slow-moving, sitting for two days over the Bahamas, which has allowed it to cause extensive damage. It finally left the country on Tuesday afternoon to edge its way to the US coastline, where communities have been boarding up homes and churches and evacuating vulnerable areas. One church in Georgia has taken in 40 health-care workers with their elderly patients, from a nursing home in a low-lying coastal area that had to be evacuated.
A hurricane relief fund has been set up by the Episcopal Relief and Development agency to help the Bahamas, and Episcopalian bishops along the south coast of the US are urging congregations to donate.