Bahamas health official says final death toll could be 'staggering' as satellite images show extent of destruction
Hurricane Dorian quickly moved west before stalling out over the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm with winds over 185mph.
The official death toll in the Bahamas rose to 50 Monday, but the nation's top health official said that the final death toll could be "staggering."
“We acknowledge that there are many missing and that the number of deaths is expected to significantly increase,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said late Friday via the Associated Press. “This is one of the stark realities we are facing in this hour of darkness.”
Bahamas Health Minister Duane Sands talked with NBC News about the daunting task the government is faced with in assessing the death toll. "It is a horrendous challenge right now and the process of certification and confirmation certainly does not in any way relate to the findings in the field," Sands told NBC News. He added that the confirmed number of fatalities is bound to "rise significantly" in the coming days.
Sands' comments on the carnage in the island nation come after a grim report from The Bahamas Press that the government is preparing to dramatically raise the death toll and has purchased some 200 body bags. The news outlet also reports that Abaco Island has become "uninhabitable" amid scores of dead bodies lining the roadsides and floating in floodwaters.
The scenes emerging from the Bahamas in the days after Hurricane Dorian battered the island chain on Sunday with 185-mph winds, Category 5 force, show a country shattered -- both physically and emotionally. AccuWeather correspondent Brandon Clement met a family from Marsh Harbour who was separated because an evacuation helicopter didn't have enough room to carry two young girls and their parents.
Alicia Cook broke down in tears as she said goodbye to her daughters, Lacy, 8, and Lyric 4. "My babies, I had to send them," she told AccuWeather through tears. "This is just a disaster. Everything's gone. There's just so much heartache and death everywhere. I just don't know what we're going to do."
Images taken on the ground in the Bahamas and from space told the same story: utter destruction. Clement scoured the grounds of the Abaco Islands and witnessed all manner of devastation. Even reinforced concrete structures were obliterated, lying on the ground in pieces as though they'd been made with sticks.
Satellite images from outer space provided a different perspective on the same tragedy. Before-and-after images provided to AccuWeather by Maxar showed the extent of the devastation across the islands.
Green Turtle Cay, a barrier island off Great Abaco, looked like a vibrant paradise in a before image taken recently. An image taken in the days since Dorian blew through showed it had been laid to waste by the hurricane. Coastal damage was apparent in the satellite images captured by Maxar, as was extensive damage to the homes on the small island.
Similar damage was visible in other photos captured from space, and environmental impacts remained a major concern. Equinor, a Norwegian energy company, said oil had leaked from some of the holding tanks at its facility at South Riding Point on Grand Bahama Island.
"A massive amount of oil appears to have been blown out of the Equinor Oil storage Facility in Eastern Grand Bahama Island by Hurricane Dorian," AccuWeather reporter Jonathan Petramala said.
Meanwhile, rescue and relief efforts have been nonstop as aid has continued to pour into the Bahamas. The U.S. Coast Guard has been carrying out rescue missions and said that its members have rescued more than 200 hurricane victims in the Bahamas and several pets. Coast Guard members have also been bringing in supplies and are ramping up other assistance it's providing.
The United Nations announced it has activated relief efforts as well. Some eight tons of ready-to-eat meals are being sent to the Bahamas, and the U.N. is providing satellite communications and coordinating on-the-ground logistics for the recovery effort.
Famed chef Jose Andres, founder of World Central Kitchen, has been serving up comfort food to hurricane victims in the days since the storm struck. Andres and his crew has been based in Nassau, which escaped the brunt of Dorian's wrath.
Talking with reporters this past week, Andres spoke about how food can play a role in helping the hurricane-stricken masses. "You restore the body and the soul," the chef said. "And hopefully what I'm doing ... is help restore the faith and the soul and the hope of people one meal at a time."
Below are more satellite images that capture the scope of Dorian's devastation around the islands. Drag the interactive slider tool all the way to the left to see the damage after Dorian, and to the right to see what the islands looked like before the storm.
Northern Marsh Harbour
Leonard M. Thompson International Airport on Marsh Harbour
Downtown Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island
Northwestern Marsh HarbourReport a Typo
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