Washington: Hundreds of hurricane Dorian survivors have fled the Bahamas and thousands more anxiously await evacuation from the devastated islands as the death toll climbed to 43.
According to officials, the number of fatalities is expected to rise as the extent of the damage becomes clear, but the search and recovery is being impeded by a broken infrastructure covered by debris left in the storm’s wake, said media reports.
The hurricane tore through the islands earlier this week, leaving a trail of destruction and a humanitarian crisis in its wake. With aid efforts under way, many survivors are scrambling to evacuate.
On Friday, crowds desperate to leave gathered in thousands at ports in Great Abaco and Grand Bahama — two of the worst-hit islands. Frustrations mounted as survivors, carrying what few possessions they had left, complained of “chaotic” and slow evacuations.
Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, speaking to survivors at the port in Abaco, called for calm and promised more free transport. “The loss of life we are experiencing is catastrophic and devastating,” he said.
Now a category one hurricane, Dorian is currently churning along the Atlantic coast of North America, towards Nova Scotia.
Earlier on Friday, hundreds who refused to evacuate Ocracoke Island in North Carolina were stranded when the hurricane made landfall.
Many of the evacuations were carried out by private boats and planes, as the Bahamian government awaited the arrival of other transport.
Helicopters and boats had been deployed but could be delayed by severe flooding, said the Bahamian Health Ministry.
Around 250 evacuees left Abaco on a boat bound for the Bahamian capital, Nassau. National Voice of the Bahamas radio reported that another boat with hundreds aboard was on its way.
A further 200 people were evacuated from Abaco on Bahamasair flights. In Grand Bahama, a large cruise ship offering free passage to Florida allowed passengers with permission to enter the US to board.