Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis is pledging to do whatever is necessary to carry out rescue and recovery efforts after Hurricane Dorian devastated the Caribbean archipelago.
Thursday will likely bring more grim news as people get a better look at what the storm left behind after spinning over Grand Bahama and Abaco islands for nearly two days with flooding rains and storm surge, as well as winds of up to 195 kilometers per hour.
Minnis said at a Wednesday news conference the confirmed death toll was at 20 on Abaco Island, and that officials expected the number to rise.
“As prime minister, I assure you that no efforts will be spared in rescuing those still in danger, feeding those who are hungry and providing shelter to those who are without homes,” he said at a Wednesday news conference. “Our response will be day and night, day after day, week after week, month after month until the lives of our people return to some degree of normalcy.”
Speaking to the magnitude of the challenge the Bahamas faces, Minnis called it “one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history.”
Entire villages are gone and beaches usually packed with tourists are instead covered with parts of buildings, destroyed cars, and the remains of people’s lives.
“Right now there are just a lot of unknowns,” Bahamian lawmaker Iram Lewis said, adding, “We need help.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has sent the Coast Guard and urban search and rescue teams to help. The British Royal Navy, Red Cross, and United Nations are also rushing in food, medicine and any kind of aid that may be needed.
The White House says Trump spoke to Prime Minister Minnis Wednesday, assuring him the United States will provide “all appropriate support,” and sent American condolences to the Bahamian people for the destruction and loss of life.
U.N. Humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock was in Nassau Wednesday meeting with Minnis. Lowcock says 20% of the Bahamian population has been affected and 70,000 people need food.
“Nothing of this sort has been experienced by the Bahamas before,” Lowcock said, adding that he is immediately releasing $1 million from the U.N. central emergency fund for water, food, shelter and medical services.
Dorian, again a Category 3 storm, is moving up the southeastern coast of the United States with potent strength as it drops heavy rain and threatens coastal areas with what the U.S. National Hurricane Center says is “life-threatening storm surge with significant coastal flooding.” It had maximum sustained winds of 185 kilometers per hour Thursday morning.
Those threats will endure for the next few days with forecasters expecting the center of the storm to move near or over the coast of South Carolina on Thursday and the coast of North Carolina on Friday before accelerating off to the northeast as Dorian weakens.