Amid fears of higher Dorian death toll, islanders vie to leave

Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, Sept 8 (AFP/APP):Bahamians scrambled to escape the islands hardest-hit by Dorian, which has killed at least 43 people, while the monster storm churned northward and made landfall near Halifax, Canada, on Saturday.

A loosely coordinated armada of passenger planes, helicopters and both private and government boats and ships — including redirected cruise liners — converged in the Bahamas on the horribly battered Abaco Islands to help with evacuations, both to Nassau and to the US mainland.

Evacuees began flowing out of the region as a cruise ship carrying 1,400 people docked Saturday in Riviera Beach, Florida, CNN reported. All had documents to enter the United States.

More than 260 Abacos residents arrived Friday in Nassau on a government-chartered ferry, part of the first wave of people to be evacuated off the archipelago’s most decimated islands.

The Coast Guard said Saturday that all Bahamian ports had now reopened and that it had deployed nine cutters to the islands. Six of its MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters had so far rescued 290 people.

Even as some Bahamians began to reunite with their loved ones, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said the death toll — 35 so far in the Abacos and eight in Grand Bahama — was likely to climb “significantly.”

Thousands of miles (kilometers) north, Canadians were hunkered down along the country’s Atlantic coast as Dorian, now classified as a post-tropical cyclone, made landfall south of the port city of Halifax, home to Canada’s Atlantic fleet.

“We’re talking about a very dangerous storm,” Bob Robichaud of the Canadian Hurricane Centre told a briefing.

Television images showed a downpour and howling winds in the empty streets of downtown Halifax where a crane collapsed onto an apartment building and more than 450,000 households in the region were without electricity after winds knocked down power lines.