Hurricane Dorian hit Grand Bahama Island as an incredibly powerful Category 5 hurricane on Sunday night with howling 185 mile-per-hour winds. Then it basically camped over the island. For nearly two days, Dorian moved at just 1 mile per hour, subjecting Grand Bahama to intense hurricane conditions. Wind gusts blew in excess of 200 mph — strong enough to blow a roof off a house. The storm generated 18 to 23 feet of coastal flooding from storm surge. More than 3 feet of rain fell.
A satellite image from Iceye, a commercial satellite operator, shows the massive flooding on the island. Only one sliver of land was not flooded.
We still don’t have the complete scope of the impact is on Grand Bahama or on the Abaco Islands, another part of the Bahamas pummeled by the enormous storm. But things are looking bad. At least 23 people have been reported dead across both sets of islands; that figure is likely to rise. “We can expect more deaths to be recorded,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told reporters. The storm only cleared out of the Bahamas Wednesday. Search and rescue is still underway.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimates 13,000 homes may have been severely damaged or destroyed across the Bahamas (about half of all homes). The US Coast Guard is responding and the British Royal Navy are responding to the disaster, and relief agencies like the Red Cross are jumping in to help. CNN reports that the main airport in Freeport, has been all but destroyed, which may make bringing aid to island difficult in the coming days.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports “flooding in Abaco is believed to have contaminated wells with saltwater.” Both Grand Bahama and the Abacos may need around 60,000 gallons of water delivered each day. In all, more than 60,000 people may need food and water assistance.
“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy,” Minnis said. “Our focus is search, rescue, and recovery. I ask for your prayers for those in affected areas and for our first responders.”
Videos and images have started to trickle out of the storm-battered Bahamas from photojournalists and locals on social media. They reveal islands torn to shreds, whole homes washed out to sea. (At the bottom of this story, find links about how you can help the Bahamas.) Here’s what they’re seeing so far: