The Bahamas suffered at least five deaths and “unprecedented and extensive” devastation as the most powerful storm in its history tears up homes and leaves swathes of territory underwater.
“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of our northern Bahamas,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a press conference in the capital Nassau on Monday. “Many homes, businesses and other buildings have been completely or partially destroyed.”
Hurricane Dorian continues to batter Grand Bahama, one of the nation’s northernmost islands, and has caused widespread flooding in many of the islands of the northwest and central Bahamas, according to the National Emergency Management Agency, or NEMA.
Grand Bahama residents posted videos to social media showing rushing flood waters reaching the roofs of homes while 155 mile-per-hour winds whipped palm trees. In Abaco, one of the first islands to be hit, the storm tore through neighborhoods, destroying houses, overturning vehicles and boats.
The U.S. Coast Guard said in an email alert that its helicopters are carrying out rescue operations in Abaco.
The storm came ashore in the Bahamas on Sunday tied as the most powerful storm to hit land anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Images published by local media showed homes semi-submerged, and roofs torn off.
Grand Bahamas International Airport flooded and is closed, as is the airport in Abaco, according to the Tourism and Aviation ministry’s notification website.
The Bahamas is made up of 700 islands and cays in the Atlantic Ocean east of Florida.
Nassau International Airport remains open. Tourism accounts for about half of the nation’s gross domestic product.
NEMA issued an all-clear for more southern islands, including New Providence, home to the capital Nassau and a majority of the nation’s residents, which escaped the worst of the storm.
Roughly 100,000 of the Bahamas population of 370,000 live in areas that will be hit by the storm, said Kevin Peter Turnquest, the country’s deputy prime minister, in response to written questions.
The storm slowed to Category 4 status on Monday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
–With assistance from Michael Deibert.
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