Dorian kills five in Bahamas, heads for US

A woman seeks cover from wind, blowing sand and rain whipped up by Hurricane Dorian on the beach in Cocoa Beach, Florida
A woman seeks cover from wind, blowing sand and rain whipped up by Hurricane Dorian on the beach in Cocoa Beach, Florida

Monster storm Dorian hovered over the Bahamas as surging seawaters and ferocious winds sowed chaos in low-lying island communities, killing at least five people and spurring mass evacuations on the US east coast.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said the hurricane was a historic tragedy for the archipelago.

“Thus far, the Royal Bahamas Police Force has confirmed that there are five deaths in Abaco,” Minnis told a news conference, referring to the islands where Dorian made landfall as a Category 5 storm on Sunday.

It weakened to a still-dangerous Category 3 storm on Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC).

As Dorian ground to a standstill, pounding Grand Bahama further to the west of the island chain, the Bahamas tourism and aviation ministry announced the start of rescue operations in safe areas.

For many, the wait for help to arrive has been terrifying.

A text message from a woman named Kendra Williams, who lives on Grand Bahama, said: “We are under water; we are up in the ceiling. Can someone please assist us or send some help. Please. Me and my six grandchildren and my son, we are in the ceiling.”

Florida has started to feel the effects of Dorian, with heavy rain, the possibility of tornadoes and a gust of 98km/h reported, the Miamibased NHC said.

In a bulletin, the NHC warned that the flash flood threat in Florida would increase in the coming days.

More than 9,500 people have taken cover in 121 shelters in Florida, according to the state’s division of emergency management.

On Tuesday morning, the hurricane remained stationary, the NHC said, whipping the Caribbean island with torrential rains and winds of 195km/h, with higher gusts.

The storm was forecast to resume moving northwest overnight.

“Though gradual weakening is forecast, Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next couple of days,” the NHC said in a bulletin.

“The hurricane will then move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late on Tuesday through Wednesday evening and then move dangerously close to the Georgia and South Carolina coasts on Wednesday night and Thursday.”

All three eastern US states have ordered coastal residents to evacuate, affecting close to a million people.

Neighbouring North Carolina has also declared a state of emergency, as has Virginia further north.