Bahamas hurricane survivors tell of children swept away
A Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew conducts a search and rescue mission following Hurricane Dorian near Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, in this September 5, 2019 handout photo. Petty Officer 3rd Class Hunter Medley/US Coast Guard/H
Date: 2019-09-06 11:44
Richard Johnson said his six-year-old brother Adrian was just too small to withstand Hurricane Dorian. The boy was blown into churning storm surge and is among thousands of people missing, many of them children, after the worst hurricane to hit the Bahamas.
It was one of many harrowing stories emerging on Thursday as residents searched for loved ones and widespread looting was reported on the islands, where the United Nations estimates 70,000 people are in immediate need of food, water and shelter.
An international relief effort was trying to overcome formidable logistical challenges to help the Bahamas, where the health minister predicted a “staggering” death toll from Hurricane Dorian, now churning northward off the coast of South Carolina.
“I guess within seconds the gusts of the wind blew the little boy off the roof into the water,” Johnson said of his brother. “Given the circumstances, I’m not that hopeful.”
Aerial video of the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas, worst hit by the then-Category 5 hurricane, showed widespread devastation, with the harbor, shops and workplaces, a hospital and airport landing strips damaged or decimated.
The death toll from Dorian stood at 30 on Thursday evening, officials told CNN, the final toll is expected to be much higher.
“Let me say that I believe the number will be staggering,” Health Minister Duane Sands was quoted by The Nassau Guardian as telling Guardian radio. “I have never lived through anything like this and I don’t want to live through anything like this again.”
Dorian turned a shantytown known as The Mud near Marsh Harbour into shredded wreckage, with bodies believed to be still below the ruins, based on the smell coming from the debris, according to a Reuters photographer who visited the area.
The photographer witnessed widespread looting in Marsh Harbour, seeing residents breaking into liquor stores and supermarkets, carrying off goods in bags or filling their vehicles.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday it was organizing an airlift from Panama of storage units, generators and prefab offices for two logistics hubs, as well as satellite equipment for emergency responders, and has bought eight metric tonnes of ready-to-eat meals.