Hurricane Dorian continues to batter the Bahamas as one of the “most destructive” storms to hit the island chain in recent history. With winds gusting more than 320 kilometers per hour (200 miles) and a storm surge between 5.5 and 7 meters (18 and 23 feet) above normal tide levels, highly destructive waves and "unprecedented" flooding are expected to continue throughout the week as the storm moves north towards the southeastern US.
The eye of the storm stalled over Grand Bahama Island, just 84 kilometers (52 miles) off Palm Beach, Florida with “tornadic-like violence” that lasted for hours over some parts. Officials are advising residents stay in shelter as unconfirmed “reports of bodies being seen” comes from Hubert Minnis, Prime Minister of the Bahamas. Monday saw the first recorded death from the hurricane as seven-year-old Lachino Mcintosh drowned when his family was attempting to relocate. His sister is still missing, reports the Bahama Press.
“This is a life-threatening situation. Residents on Grand Bahama Island should not leave their shelter when the eye passes over, as winds will rapidly increase on the other side of the eye,” wrote the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in a status update.
A total blackout has been reported on the most populated island of New Providence and estimates project the insurance industry will pay upwards of $25 billion, reports The Guardian. As many as 13,000 houses have been severely damaged or destroyed as flooding has reportedly contaminated wells with saltwater, according to Red Cross officials on the ground.
“We don’t yet have a complete picture of what has happened. But it is clear that Hurricane Dorian has had a catastrophic impact. We anticipate extensive shelter needs, alongside the need for short-term economic support, as well as for clean water and health assistance,” said Sune Bulow, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross, in a statement.
NASA coverage of the storm shows the movement of the powerful storm system that has wreaked “extreme devastation on the island” in its path. Heavy rains capable of producing “life-threatening flash floods” and high rip currents are expected in the Bahamas and parts of the southeastern US are into Friday.
The storm has been downgraded to an intense category 4 and low-end category 5, though the effects from such a storm can be equally as destructive, note experts. As the storm moves northward, 19 million people in Florida and the US east coast are expected to be impacted and evacuation orders are already in place. The most destructive force from hurricanes are the deadly storm surges that have already caused water levels to rise in the southeastern coast ahead of Dorian, putting low-lying coastal areas in “extremely vulnerable” conditions.
Social media users have taken to the platforms to share the devastation in real-time.