Relatives in Florida are trying with limited success to get information on loved ones in the Bahamas. What they do hear is devastating.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Reports of roofs blown off shelters, epic storm surge and missing loved ones trickled out Monday from the Bahamas, besieged by stalled Category 4 Hurricane Dorian. At least five people are dead, including a 7-year-old boy.
The deaths occurred on Grand Abacos Island, pummeled by the Dorian’s 23-foot storm surge and ferocious 185 mph wind, Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced at news conference Monday.
The word devastation was not adequate to describe Dorian's deep horrific mark on one of the most idyllic places in the Western Hemisphere with reports of bodies in the water in the northern Bahama islands. The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed four helicopters have been deployed to assist in rescues in the Marsh Harbour area.
Families in Florida with relatives in the Bahamas were desperate for information and were having trouble confirming disturbing reports. They took to social media to gather and disseminate what information they could.
Lamara Davis of West Palm Beach said her family was awaiting word on the whereabouts of an uncle in Green Turtle Cay after reports that residents on the tiny island were without shelter after roofs were blown off landmark hotels and a school.
“My uncle Rex McIntosh is still missing. Nobody has heard from him,” said Davis, who own Ainkas Jewels and was born in the Bahamas. “The roof blew off his apartment. The roof blew off of most places, including the school.”
The school losing the roof is a serious concern, she said, because it is the highest point on the island. The family was monitoring a Whatsapp internet messaging service.
People trapped in collapsed homes
Green Turtle Cay is an island that is three miles long and a half mile wide. It is accessible only by ferry boat from Great Abaco.
Green Turtle Club Resort and Marina confirmed what Davis already knew through social media: “Roads impassable. Total devastation. People are trapped in collapsed homes. The GTC primary school shelter failed.”
The International Red Cross reported Monday as many as 13,000 homes damaged or destroyed in the archipelago.
Davis posted a video from a relative on her Instagram account of flooding in Abaco island showing storm surge entering homes around the ferry docks.
The person taking the video says: “The water is just rushing in, just rushing in on main street. You are going to need a boat to get around.”
Among the dead was Lachino Mcintosh, 7, who drowned while his family tried to relocate from their home in Abaco, The Bahama Press reported. His sister is also missing, according to a tweet by the Bahamas Press.
A digital wall of missing people was published by the publication as families became frantic about the location of their love ones. Communities in Abaco are under water and many residents were missing and feared dead.
The news site picked up a distress call and relayed it in a tweet: “I know nobody could move in Freeport but please if y’all could get a boat or something to Churchill Drive, we will appreciate it. My brother, his girl and their two small boys are stuck in the roof of their home and the water reaching the ceiling.”
Hurricane Dorian is the strongest tropical cyclone to hit the Bahamas on record with wind gusts up to 220 mph and sustained winds of 185 mph. The second strongest was Hurricane Andrew in 1992 with 160 mph winds.
'The place is a disaster'
Minnis said during a news conference on Sunday said that it was probably the most sad and worst day of his life to address the Bahamian people.
"I just want to say as a physician I've been trained to withstand many things, but never anything like this,“ he said.
Bahamas Press said of the island of Abaco, home to 17,000 Bahamians: “The place is a disaster, no business is operable and bodies are floating around Big Cat. The concern is nobody knows how many people died, and they feel when the water subsides some bodies will be washed out to sea.”
The news site reported Bahamas International Airport was under 5 feet of water.
“We need you to bunker down,” Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama, warned people. “It’s going to be another 10 to 12 hours that we’re going to be bombarded with this.”
Thompson and other officials said they received distress calls about rising floodwaters, but rescuers could not go out in the violent conditions.
“They are ready to get into those areas as soon as the weather subsides,” he said.
Social media is where most of the reports out of the Bahamas came from on Monday.
One of the better known resorts, Atlantis on Paradise Island, reported that it was largely spared any damage. It set up relief fund for the Bahamas, one of several that have been established. But such good news was hard to find on Monday out of the island chain.
The Bahamas Sport Fishing Network’s Facebook page posted harrowing pleas from residents, such as one from Shelly Roark, who posted, “Dawn Sands is at my house in Marsh Harbour with a broken neck. Please someone get word to the U.S. Coast Guard. They need help.”
Alisha Nesbitt, who lives in Marsh Harbor, another barrier island, posted a video to Facebook that showed widespread devastation. The water was nearly up to roof tops, houses were clearly off their foundation, and small boats were capsized.
Michael Pintard, minister for agriculture in the Bahamas, shared a video showing the rising waters outside his home and estimated that sea levels had risen at least 15 feet to reach above the windows of his home.
"This is what I’m facing at the moment, and I have neighbors that are in a far worse position than me and my family," he said.