The storm parked itself over the Caribbean islands for nearly two days, ripping away at thousands of homes, crippling infrastructure and trapping families.
As of Wednesday, at least seven deaths were reported, but officials warned that the number would likely rise as aid mobilizes and reaches badly hit areas.
The storm struck the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama as a Category 5 hurricane on Sunday and lingered over the tropical regions for more than 36 hours.
Dorian’s near-record-breaking winds and torrential rain pummelled the islands, which have a combined population of about 70,000. It later dipped to a Category 3 storm, but not before causing tremendous damage.
The islands are known for their marinas and all-inclusive resorts. Little has been left unscathed by the storm.
Rescue crews were preparing Wednesday to go into the island’s eastern region for the first time since Dorian hit, but landscapes of destruction are impeding their efforts.
“Right now there are just a lot of unknowns,” Parliament member Iram Lewis said, adding that crews have yet to reach some critically hit areas. “We need help.”
In the meantime, Bahamians are reportedly rescuing victims left trapped in the aftermath using personal watercraft and bulldozers. The U.S. Coast Guard, along with Britain’s Royal Navy and other groups, are working to get food and medicine to survivors. The coast guard airlifted at least 21 people with injuries from Abaco on Tuesday.
With airports closed and roads flooded, getting to those stranded is proving difficult and strenuous.
In many cases, survivors have relied on volunteers to help them get to safety and shelter.
The Red Cross reported Tuesday that more than 13,000 homes on Grand Bahama and Abaco have been destroyed or severely damaged. That makes up about 45 per cent of all residences on the islands.
Officials with the United Nations estimate that more than 60,000 people in the hardest-hit islands will be in need of food — approximately 45,700 in Grand Bahama and 14,500 in Abaco. Even more people will require clean drinking water, the Red Cross told the Associated Press.
The organization has vowed to help 20,000 of the islands’ most vulnerable, including a large community of Haitian citizens.
Those impacted will also need medical aid, as the storm has devastated some health infrastructure.
The situation is particularly dire in Grand Bahama, where the main hospital was rendered inoperable. Less severe damage was reported at the neighbouring hospital on Abaco.
Bahamas Health Minister Duane Sands told the Associated Press he hopes Marsh Habor in Abaco is sheltering hundreds of people, but is without ample food, water and medical supplies.
Sands said the government would airlift 25 doctors, nurses and other medical help to Abaco.
“The situation is under control in Abaco,” he said. “In Grand Bahama, today will tell the magnitude of the problem.”
The U.S. Air Force said a hospital ship could be used for medical assistance if deemed necessary, but it is a few days’ sail away from the Bahamas.
The U.S. Coast Guard has deployed at least six helicopters to the Bahamas to aid in search and rescue efforts and more help is on standby as Defence Secretary Mark Esper authorized 14 days of support for the islands if needed on Tuesday. The coast guard helicopters have conducted hourly flights to Abaco, flying survivors to a hospital in Nassau.
While the assessment is only beginning, the scope of the damage can perhaps be best understood in the sky.
WXChasing, run by storm chaser Brandon Clement, has been sharing video of what portions of Abaco and Grand Bahama look like since Dorian inched away from the Caribbean.
His video shows the waterlogged neighbourhoods, dilapidated homes with roofs torn off, and overturned boats.
In one post, he wrote that the video was taken from a plane flying amid “hurricane-force winds.” He noted it’s been a struggle to upload more video with shoddy connectivity in Nassau.
Dorian has backed off the Bahamas and now has its sights set on the United States.
The storm pushed northward off the Flordia shoreline with dangerous winds that could touch Georgia and the Carolinas.
Approximately three million people in the four states have been urged to evacuate. The National Hurricane Center has warned that the storm, albeit reduced, has the capacity to cause severe flooding to the coastal states even if its core doesn’t reach the shore.
“Don’t tough it out. Get out,” said U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency official Carlos Castillo.
— With files from The Associated Press