Deadly Hurricane Dorian batters the Bahamas, edges closer to US

Hurricane downgraded to Category 4 but remains life-threatening, bringing winds of up to 230km an hour.
Strong winds move the palms of the palm trees at the first moment of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas. / Ramon Espinosa/AP Photo

Hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the Atlantic, continued to pummel the Bahamas, leaving a deadly path of destruction despite weakening slightly.

Dorian was downgraded to Category 3 hurricane early on Tuesday but continues to batter the Bahamas as it remains almost at a standstill.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at least five people had died as a result of the storm, but officials said the death toll could go up.

"We are in the midst of a historic tragedy," Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in announcing the fatalities. He called the devastation "unprecedented and extensive."

Officials said they had received a "tremendous" number of calls from people in flooded homes.

A radio station received more than 2,000 distress messages, including reports of a five-month-old baby stranded on a roof and a grandmother with six grandchildren who cut a hole in the roof to escape rising floodwaters. Other reports involved a group of eight children and five adults stranded on a highway and two storm shelters that flooded.

Police Chief Samuel Butler urged people to remain calm and share their GPS coordinates, but he said rescue crews had to wait until weather conditions improved.

"We simply cannot get to you," he told Bahamas radio station ZNS, as forecasters warned that Dorian could generate a storm surge as high as 23 feet (7 meters).

Residents were warned not to leave shelters until the eye of the hurricane passed. The storm's strongest winds are usually close to the eye.

As many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or severely damaged, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

Houses in a neighbourhood in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island were engulfed by six feet (1.8 metres) of water. "It looks like they're boats on top of the water," said Rosa Knowles-Bain, 61, a resident who fled two days ago to an emergency shelter.

A Reuters witness staying at a resort on the island of Great Abaco said winds tore off the shutters and part of the roof, and the site was surrounded by a lake of water.

The hurricane, which was downgraded late Monday morning to Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, remained over Grand Bahama, although the maximum sustained winds had fallen slightly to about 130 miles an hour (220 km/h) by 11pm (03:00GMT), the NHC said.

It did not expect Dorian to move far from its position over Grand Bahama during the night. 

On Sunday, Dorian's maximum sustained winds reached 185 mph (297 km/h), with gusts up to 220 mph (354 km/h), tying the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to make landfall.

In the United States, strong gusts and high surf were already being reported along Florida's east coast as the hurricane was about 105 miles (170km) from West Palm Beach, the centre said.

It added that Dorian would come dangerously close to the state from Monday night until Wednesday evening, then move close to the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina on Wednesday night and Thursday.

At the White House, staff members reviewed hurricane planning with state and local officials. US President Donald Trump was being briefed hourly, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said.

Al Jazeera

ADVERTISEMENT