Hurricane Dorian survivors await relief as teams search for bodies

Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, Sept 7 (AFP/APP):Desperate for food, water and shelter, survivors of Hurricane Dorian, which pulverized the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm, were anxiously awaiting relief on Friday as teams searched through rubble of collapsed homes for bodies.

At least 30 deaths have been reported from the monster storm but hundreds — perhaps thousands — are missing and Bahamian officials said the final toll could be “staggering.”

Thousands of people were left homeless on the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco and many were becoming frustrated with the speed of relief and evacuation efforts.

“No water, no food,” said James Whell of Marsh Harbour, the largest town on Abaco, which had a population of more than 15,000 pre-hurricane and was the hardest-hit island along with nearby Grand Bahama.

“My plan is to leave, find some other place to live,” Whell said.

According to UN relief officials, more than 70,000 people — virtually the entire population of Grand Bahama and Abaco — are in need of assistance after the storm reduced homes to matchsticks and destroyed people’s livelihoods.

The US Coast Guard and private organizations have been evacuating residents of Abaco and other islands to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas which is located to the south and was spared the wrath of the hurricane.

The multinational relief effort, which also includes Britain’s Royal Navy and several non-governmental organizations, has been hampered by flood damage to airport runways, destroyed piers and docks and downed communications.

Tents and awnings installed at Nassau Airport, not far from rescue planes taking off and landing, provided temporary housing for storm-battered Bahamians waiting for updates and the arrival of their loved ones.

“I’ve been separated from the rest of my family for two days,” said Saleah Bethal, who was rescued on Thursday and had not heard from them since.

The 23-year-old was trying to locate four children and three adults, who should have arrived at the airport by now.

The scale of the devastation has left many wondering if Abaco, in particular, can ever be rebuilt.

“I will come back to Abaco, that’s my home, but when it will be developed,” Bethal said, adding that the family’s businesses, such as a construction and cleaning company, had been totally destroyed.

Louise Philips, who was awaiting the arrival of her father, said she was overwhelmed that he was even alive.

“Knowing that Dorian was a Category 5 and that homes were so badly damaged, for him to survive at his age of age 75, he is blessed. He is one of the lucky ones,” Philips said.

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