Hurricane Dorian's death toll in Bahamas rises to 43

Hurricane Dorian death toll in Bahamas rises to 43
Marsh Harbour (AFP): The death toll from Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas has risen to 43, media outlets said late Friday, and was expected to grow "significantly."

US network CNN and Bahamas newspaper The Tribune cited Health Minister Duane Sands as confirming the new toll, up from 30.

"Forty-three is the official count, many missing and this number is expected to grow significantly," Erica Wells Cox, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, told NBC News.

Dorian was a Category 5 hurricane — the highest on the five-level wind scale — when it slammed into the northern Bahamas on Sunday, leaving a trail of immense destruction.

According to UN relief officials, more than 70,000 people — virtually the entire population of the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco — are in need of assistance after the storm reduced homes to matchsticks and destroyed people's livelihoods.

Hundreds — perhaps thousands — are missing and Bahamian officials have said the final toll could be "staggering."

Hurricane Dorian survivors await relief
Desperate for food, water and shelter, survivors of Hurricane Dorian, which pulverized the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm, were anxiously awaiting relief on Friday as teams searched through rubble of collapsed homes for bodies.

"No water, no food," said James Whell of Marsh Harbour, the largest town on Abaco, which had a population of more than 15,000 pre-hurricane and was the hardest-hit island along with nearby Grand Bahama.

"My plan is to leave, find some other place to live," Whell said.

According to UN relief officials, more than 70,000 people — virtually the entire population of Grand Bahama and Abaco — are in need of assistance after the storm reduced homes to matchsticks and destroyed people's livelihoods.

The US Coast Guard and private organizations have been evacuating residents of Abaco and other islands to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas which is located to the south and was spared the wrath of the hurricane.

The multinational relief effort, which also includes Britain's Royal Navy and several non-governmental organizations, has been hampered by flood damage to airport runways, destroyed piers and docks and downed communications.

Tents and awnings installed at Nassau Airport, not far from rescue planes taking off and landing, provided temporary housing for storm-battered Bahamians waiting for updates and the arrival of their loved ones.

"I've been separated from the rest of my family for two days," said Saleah Bethal, who was rescued on Thursday and had not heard from them since.

The 23-year-old was trying to locate four children and three adults, who should have arrived at the airport by now.

The scale of the devastation has left many wondering if Abaco, in particular, can ever be rebuilt.

"I will come back to Abaco, that's my home, but when it will be developed," Bethal said, adding that the family's businesses, such as a construction and cleaning company, had been totally destroyed.

Louise Philips, who was awaiting the arrival of her father, said she was overwhelmed that he was even alive.

"Knowing that Dorian was a Category 5 and that homes were so badly damaged, for him to survive at his age of age 75, he is blessed. He is one of the lucky ones," Philips said.

Landfall in Outer Banks
As survivors began the first steps in rebuilding their lives, arrangements were being made to take care of the dead and the Bahamian authorities were seeking to account for the missing.

Health Minister Duane Sands said extra morticians and refrigerated coolers to store bodies were being sent to the affected islands.

Mortuary workers in white hazmat suits, blue gloves and masks could be seen in Marsh Harbour carrying corpses in green body bags and loading them onto flatbed trucks.

Of the eventual death toll, Sands declared, "Let me say that I believe the number will be staggering."

"Literally hundreds, up to thousands, of people are still missing," Joy Jibrilu, the director-general of the Bahamian tourism and aviation ministry, told CNN.

Dorian made landfall meanwhile in the United States as a Category 1 hurricane packing winds of nearly 90 miles per hour (150 kilometres per hour).

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the storm made landfall at Cape Hatteras on North Carolina's Outer Banks, the finger-like barrier islands off the coast.

Flooding was reported in the town of Ocracoke to the southwest of Cape Hatteras.

Thousands of coastal residents of US states from Florida to Virginia had been fearing the worst from the powerful storm but the East Coast largely escaped unscathed.

Some flooding occurred in the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, and tens of thousands of residents lost electricity but no major damage was reported.

At 5pm (2100 GMT), the NHC said Dorian was moving in a northeast direction up the Atlantic coast at 24 mph (39 kph) and was expected to bring hurricane-force winds to parts of Nova Scotia in Canada.

The centre of the storm should move to the southeast of New England on Friday night and Saturday morning and across Nova Scotia late Saturday.

Canadian authorities issued a hurricane warning for central and eastern Nova Scotia and a hurricane watch for southwestern Newfoundland.