MARSH HARBOUR (Bahamas) • The wreckage of pulverised homes, beached boats and floodwaters covered kilometres of the Bahamas in Hurricane Dorian's wake yesterday, as rescuers searched for survivors of the worst storm to ever strike the island nation.
Dorian was churning off the Florida coast yesterday, with residents along hundreds of kilometres of coastline warned of its potential for life-threatening storm surges and dangerous winds.
Residents of coastal Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were bracing themselves for Dorian's approach, with the National Hurricane Centre warning that the slow-moving storm could make landfall in South or North Carolina today or tomorrow.
More than a million people have been ordered to evacuate.
The US Navy has also ordered ships based on Virginia's coast to head out to sea to avoid Dorian.
Navy spokesman Elizabeth Baker said yesterday that vessels docked at the world's largest navy base in Norfolk and other nearby installations are preparing to leave. Vice-Admiral Andrew Lewis said on Tuesday that the ships will remain at sea until the threat from the storm subsides. Navy aircraft will either be secured in hangars or fly to more inland airfields.
Dorian, one of the most powerful storms recorded in the Atlantic, whipped the low-lying islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama in the north-western Bahamas on Tuesday. The scope of the damage and humanitarian crisis was still unfolding as aerial video of the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas showed wide swathes of destruction. Officials warned that the death toll of seven was likely to rise.
"We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country's history," said Prime Minister Hubert Minnis. "Marsh Harbour has suffered, I would estimate, in excess of 60 per cent damage to their homes," he added, referring to the port on Great Abaco.
Some posts on Twitter said entire communities were swept away.
With telephone lines down on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, residents posted lists of missing loved ones across social media sites.
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.
Food may be required for 14,500 people in the northern Bahamas' Abaco Islands and for 45,700 people in Grand Bahama, the United Nations World Food Programme said.
REUTERS, NYTIMES, ASSOCIATED PRESS