Homes torn to timbers and vehicles tossed like toys littered whole neighborhoods as rescue teams on Wednesday continued to fight flooding and the waning outer bands of Hurricane Dorian to try to save those still stranded in the northeastern Bahamas.
Already seven people, including an 8-year-old boy, had been confirmed killed as the strongest storm ever to make landfall in the island nation moved toward the southeastern US coast.
But that toll and the tally of catastrophic devastation are only just starting to come into view three days after Dorian slammed ashore in the Bahamas as a Category 5 monster.
“We can expect more deaths to be recorded,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said Tuesday. “Our priority is search, rescue, and recovery.”
Dorian, now a Category 2 storm crawling at 8 mph along Florida’s east coast, stalled for days over the northern Bahamas, battering the same devastated areas.
On Great Abaco Island, residents emerged late Tuesday to gasp at the incredible devastation. Huge piles of rubble stood where businesses and homes once had been, aerial video showed.
Even new homes built under more stringent building codes had been destroyed, Brandon Clement told CNN from a helicopter over the island. One older neighborhood is gone, he said.
“You can’t tell that there are any homes there, he said. “It looks like a bunch of building materials were put in a big grinder and thrown on the ground.”
Parts of the Abaco Islands are decimated, Minnis said, estimating that 60% of homes in the town of Marsh Harbor sustained damage.
Freeport resident Harold Williams and his son went out on a Jet Ski to get stranded relatives who waded out to them in chest-deep waters, he said.
“I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this in our lifetime: total destruction,” Williams said.
Meanwhile, the Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport was under water, and helicopters were sent to rescue at least 30 people stranded in floodwaters, Minnis said.
More police and security forces are expected Wednesday morning on the Abaco Islands to prevent violence or looting, Minnis said. And some 60,000 people on the hard-hit Grand Bahama and Abaco islands may now need food relief, a World Food Programme analysis shows, a spokesman said.
“We have been attacked by a vicious, devastating storm,” the Prime Minister told CNN.
Dorian’s victims and its survivors
An 8-year-old boy who’s believed to have drowned in rising water is among the storm’s victims, his grandmother, Ingrid McIntosh, told local news outlets. The child’s mother, 31, found his body, McIntosh said, adding that her granddaughter is missing.
Freeport resident Howard Armstrong’s wife drowned in front of him after storm surge swamped their home, leaving only their heads above water, he said. The couple waited for hours to be rescued before Armstrong’s wife succumbed to hypothermia and slipped beneath the surface.
“She was gone so quickly,” Armstrong said as he waited for his wife’s body to be recovered.
Minnis asked people not to share images of those who perished out of compassion.
Even as Dorian raged on Grand Bahama Island, flooding streets and submerging cars, neighbors rushed to help one another, according to a CNN crew that watched rescued Bahamians find refuge on a partially submerged bridge that was used as a staging point.
Some of those rescued were exhausted after spending all night clinging to their roofs or stuck in their attics.
A slow-moving storm
For all the power Dorian brought, it had the added devastation of moving slowly.
The storm moved only 30 miles in 30 hours from Monday into Tuesday, pummeling the same places with wind, rain and storm surge. By Wednesday morning, all tropical storm warnings for the country had been discontinued, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm is headed for the mainland US, moving up the Florida coast toward Georgia and the Carolinas.