Bahamas hurricane: Hundreds gather at port in bid to escape island

Hundreds of people have gathered at a port in the Bahamas hoping to escape an island devastated by Hurricane Dorian. International aid efforts gained momentum as emergency crews hunted for survivors and the missing five days after Dorian blasted the Bahamas with 185mph winds. Officials said 30 have been confirmed dead but the toll is sure to rise.

Some in the crowd in Grand Abaco, lined up behind a yellow tape, had placed their names on evacuation lists at shelters and arrived as early as 1am, hoping for transport to the capital Nassau. “It’s going to get crazy soon,” said Serge Simon, 39, who drives an ice truck and was waiting with his wife and two young sons. “There’s no food, no water. There are bodies in the water.

People are going to start getting sick.”

Fernley Cooper, hand in hand with his daughter Grace, walks with what they could recover from their house (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

There were no government-organised evacuations yet, but the Royal Bahamas Defence Force was helping people board a 139-ft ferry that had come to pick up its employees and had room for an additional 160 people. The crowd waited calmly as marines separated women and children to allow them to board first, followed by the men. “Our sense is people want to get off Abaco,” said the ship’s commanding officer, William Sturrup.

A British navy ship moored offshore was sending in aid on a landing craft, including blankets and 500 boxes of ration packs that feed a family of four. In addition, two private yachts had also brought in aid, including pallets of water bottles. Mr Sturrup said the navy ship would return later with more aid, and that a 210ft landing craft of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force would come on Friday afternoon with supplies and trucks.

Another crowd of a few hundred gathered on Thursday at a small airport, hoping to catch small planes that were picking up the most vulnerable survivors, including the sick and the elderly. The evacuation was slow and there was frustration for some who said they had nowhere to go after the Category 5 hurricane splintered whole neighbourhoods. “They told us that the babies, the pregnant people and the elderly people were supposed to be first preference,” said Lukya Thompson, a 23-year-old bartender.

But many were still waiting, she said.

Bahamas hurricane: Hundreds gather at port in bid to escape islandThe portico of a house destroyed by Hurricane Dorian is the only thing left standing (Ramon Espinosa)

The Bahamian health ministry said helicopters and boats were on the way to help people in affected areas, though officials warned of delays because of severe flooding and limited access. Bahamian health minister Duane Sands said that the known dead are from Abaco and Grand Bahama islands and include some who died from injuries after being evacuated by air to New Providence island. Total property losses, not including infrastructure and autos, could reach 7 billion dollars, the firm Karen Clark & Co. estimated.

The hurricane hit Abaco on Sunday and then hovered over Grand Bahama for a day and a half. The United Nations announced the purchase of eight tonmes of ready-to-eat meals and said it will provide satellite communications equipment and airlift storage units, generators and prefab offices to set up logistics hubs. On Grand Bahama, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship dropped off 10,000 meals, 10,000 bottles of water and more than 180 generators, as well as diapers and flashlights.

American Airlines said it flew a Boeing 737 from Miami to Nassau to drop off 14,000 pounds of relief supplies. The airline was also giving frequent-flyer points to customers who donate at least 25 dollars to the Red Cross. Troops from the Rhode Island National Guard were set to fly in with three C-130J cargo aircraft on Friday, state officials said.

And the Netherlands said it would send ships from the Caribbean Dutch territory of Sint Maarten.

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