Sept. 5 (UPI) — Officials said airplanes and helicopters have rescued more than 100 people from the storm-ravaged Bahamas, and rescuers searched Thursday for more victims of Hurricane Dorian.
Dorian was a Category 5 storm when it stalled over the island nation and battered the commonwealth for 36 hours Sunday and Monday. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said the hurricane caused “generational devastation.” The confirmed death toll is at 20, but it’s expected to rise.
“Our emergency priority is to get the critically wounded out and help the government of the Bahamas get the infrastructure back up so it’s safe, sanitary and livable — at least on a temporary basis — for those folks,” U.S. Coast Guard Capt. James Passarelli told CNN.
An estimated 60,000 people could be in dire need of food and other aid in the coming days, the World Food Program said.
The Miami Herald reported the first large relief ship with food and other supplies arrived in northwest Bahamas on Thursday. A Royal Caribbean cruise ship brought the supplies, which were then sent onshore by tugboats.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it had rescued a total of 135 people by early Thursday. Officials said most transports involved taking the injured to a place they could receive high levels of care.
Thousands remain stranded without shelter, clean water or food throughout the Bahamas. On Abaco Island, survivors huddled at what’s left of the airport waiting for rescue. Nearly half the homes on Abaco and Grand Bahama were damaged or destroyed, the Red Cross said.
“[My] house had broken up around us,” resident Nancy Albury said. “And we cracked the door open and there was nothing left.”
In one area known as The Mudd, where many undocumented Haitian immigrants live, The Miami Herald reported bodies were lying among the wreckage.
The Bahamas’ only international airport, in Freeport on Grand Bahama, sustained heavy damage from the storm, making it harder to get relief supplies into the island. The main terminal was still standing but many of the walls had collapsed.
Freeport resident Harold Williams and his son rescued stranded relatives by jet ski.
“I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this in our lifetime,” he said. “Total destruction.”
The Bahamas had tightened its building codes for new home construction, but some residents said Hurricane Dorian destroyed them just the same.
“You can’t tell that there are any homes there,” rescuer Brandon Clement said as he shot footage from a helicopter. “It looks like a bunch of building materials were put in a big grinder and thrown on the ground.”