NASSAU, Bahamas — The extent of Hurricane Dorian’s destruction in the Bahamas — and the humanitarian crisis triggered by the catastrophic storm — came into sharper focus for the rest of the world on Wednesday as official damage assessments and new death counts emerged from the battered archipelago.
Residents desperate to rescue loved ones trapped on Great Abaco and aid groups organizing relief efforts to the devastated islands in the northwestern Bahamas gathered at the airport in Nassau prepared to help. They jockeyed for scarce seats on outbound flights.
Lowree Tynes 36, and Daynan Tynes, 44, from the Abacos, waited at the executive airport in Nassau on Wednesday morning trying to catch a flight home to evacuate about 10 children trapped there.
The kids belong to family and friends who weren’t able to get off the island before Dorian made landfall there on Sunday as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 185 mph and a storm surge two-stories high, making it the most powerful hurricane on record ever to hit the island.
Communications are spotty, so the Tynes have only been receiving cryptic, bare bones text messages.
“House is gone.”
They have also received coordinates of where they hope to find the children. In some cases, the coordinates have changed five or six times — a sign, they fear, that people are fleeing from one precarious shelter to another.
The couple, who run a construction company and design studio in Marsh Harbour, have helped many of their clients over the years build hurricane-resistant homes. But Dorian was different.
“There was no way to prepare for this,” Lowree Tynes said.
Four days after the hurricane hit, the couple also fear their isolated family and friends are likely growing desperate.
“People stock up on food and water for two or three days,” Daynan Tynes said. “But there was no way they could have planned for this long.”
They’re taking diapers, water, baby food and other first aid items, but it’s unclear how long they will wait to get to the islands. The couple were competing with the Bahamian military, aid organizations and the global media to find room on a flight.
Asked what group they represented, they said, “We live here.”
The Tyneses said they do not know the condition of their own home, cars and business on Abaco, but they are prepared for the worst.
“Our house is gone,” Daynan Tynes said. “At least that’s what we expect.”
Aerial footage of Great Abaco in the northwestern Bahamas revealed the decimation Dorian left behind after making
After flying over the devastated islands on Tuesday, Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called the storm’s aftermath “one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history.”
At least seven people have died and many more have been reported missing as a result of Dorian, which decimated most of the homes in Marsh Harbour, the capital of Great Abaco, and wiped out a shantytown known as The Mudd.
The storm’s high winds and muddy brown storm water took out hospitals and airports, deluged roadways and trapped people in their homes. A group of 30 people were rescued from floodwaters in the Abaco Islands on Tuesday, but many more needed help as search-and-rescue operations were underway.
About 400 people took shelter at the clinic in Marsh Harbour, the Pan American Health Organization reported. At least 20 critical patients were evacuated from Abaco to the Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau.
Extensive flooding in Abaco and Grand Bahama Island, where Dorian stalled for two days, damaged the Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport, contributing to a public health challenge.
In response to the crisis, Florida Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat who has family in the Bahamas, called on the Trump administration and federal lawmakers to make it easier for Bahamians fleeing the storm’s aftermath to enter the United States.
“I urge the Trump Administration as well as Senators Rubio and Scott to waive U.S. visa requirements for Bahamians seeking refuge post-Dorian,” Jones said in a written statement. “It is inhumane to do nothing while thousands of our fellow human beings are left to languish without drinking water or shelter.”
With many parts of the Bahamas unreachable by officials, many residents took it upon themselves to help their neighbors. Bahamians used jet skis and a bulldozer to rescue trapped residents as the U.S. Coast Guard, Britain’s Royal Navy and aid groups tried to get food and medicine to survivors. By Tuesday, at least 29 people had been rescued.
Lea Head-Rigby, who helps run a local charity and flew over the Abaco Islands on Tuesday, described the scene for the Associated Press in apocalyptic terms.
“It’s total devastation. It’s decimated,” she said. “It’s not rebuilding something that was there; we have to start again.”
By nightfall Tuesday, with no power on Great Abaco and much of the island cut off from communication, reports of looting and lawlessness surfaced on social media, where scores of people shared cellphone videos, pictures and other personal accounts of Dorian’s destruction.
Minnis said his government will be increasing security on the island. The prime minister and his team had tried to travel to Grand Bahama island but had to turn back due to weather.
“The area around the airport looks like a lake,” he said.
Some of the injured were flown out of Abaco by the Coast Guard, which on Monday had completed five medical evacuations from the Marsh Harbour clinic to Nassau.
The United States also deployed a disaster response team. The US Agency for International Development said the federal agency had sent 32 metric tons of relief supplies, including plastic sheeting, hygiene kits and water containers to the Bahamas from its warehouse in Miami.
Other resources were also brought in, including a 600-foot Bahamian Navy vessel that was scheduled to deliver food to the Abaco Islands Tuesday night. The Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency planned to distribute more food to residents there Wednesday.
The undersecretary of the United Nations also was scheduled to visit the Bahamas on Wednesday to coordinate humanitarian relief, and a call was scheduled with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minnis said.
As reports of the humanitarian crisis in the Bahamas circulated on newscasts, residents and aid groups in Miami organized collections of food, clothing, personal items and other relief supplies for the island.
From Pembroke Pines to Doral and Miami’s Coconut Grove, home to one of South Florida’s oldest Bahamian communities, South Florida geared up for a large-scale relief effort.
On ZNS Network, a radio and TV station on Grand Bahama, broadcasters relayed messages from survivors who had lost communication with family and friends — some were searching for missing loved ones, while others wanted to say they were doing alright.
Many in South Florida turned to social media to touch base with loved ones on the islands.
In one group chat on WhatsApp that was set up for families searching for loved ones in the Abaco islands, more than 250 people posted more than 700 photos, links and documents after the group was formed on Monday.
Fort Lauderdale resident Walnide Saintilaire, 32, wanted to know if anyone had seen her father’s body. She was asking for a photo to confirm the news she heard: that he had died escaping his home in Murphy Town, Central Abaco, over the weekend.
“To be honest, I didn’t know it was going to be this bad,” she told the Miami Herald.