An international relief effort has been picking up across the Bahamas on Thursday after Hurricane Dorian, one of the most intense storms ever to hit the Caribbean, swept across the islands leaving at least 30 people dead and thousands missing.
Bahamian Health Minister Duane Sands said the dead were from the worst-hit Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, which are home to about 70,000 people and where about 50 percent of homes are thought to have been either destroyed or severely damaged.
The number of dead was likely to climb "significantly higher" as rescue teams reached devastated communities, he told The Associated Press in a phone interview late on Thursday.
The United Nations estimates some 70,000 people are in immediate need of food, water, and shelter, and the World Food Programme said on Thursday it was organizing an airlift from Panama, including eight metric tonnes of ready-to-eat meals, two logistics hubs and satellite equipment for emergency response teams.
Stunned residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama surveyed the wreckage of their homes and officials struggled to assess the damage and the number of dead, as a weakened Dorian brought torrential rain, shrieking winds, and tornadoes to the Carolinas along the eastern coast of the United States late on Thursday.
Millions of residents in the at-risk eastern states had been evacuated before the storm, but there were reports of four deaths as Dorian brought down trees and cut power.