Hurricane Dorian has stalled over the Bahamas, lashing the islands with wind, rain and storm surges, and killing at least five people.
Thousands of homes were inundated by floodwater as rescue operations tried to reach stranded residents, many trapped on roofs. Dorian, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record, has been hovering over Grand Bahama Island for more than a day.
At least five people have been killed in the Abaco Islands, in the northern Bahamas, the country’s prime minister, Hubert Minnis, said on Monday. “We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of our northern Bahamas,” Minnis said. “Our mission and focus now is search, rescue and recovery.”
Bahamian officials said they received a “tremendous” number of calls from people in flooded homes. One radio station said it received more than 2,000 distress messages, including reports of a five-month-old baby stranded on a roof and a woman with six grandchildren who cut a hole in a roof to escape rising floodwaters.
Dorian threatened to unleash a storm surge that could raise water levels by as much as 12 to 18 feet (4-5 metres) above normal on Grand Bahama Island, the NHC said.
As many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or severely damaged, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said. Houses in a neighbourhood in Freeport were engulfed by six feet (1.8 metres) of water.
The NHC said Dorian was expected to drift to the north-west late on Tuesday, moving “dangerously close” to the east coast of Florida, where strong gusts and high surf were already being reported.
Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, urged coastal residents to heed evacuation orders. “Get out now while there’s time and while you have fuel available,” he told a news conference from the state’s emergency operations centre in Tallahassee