Bahamas: More than 2,500 people registered as missing after devastating Hurricane Dorian


About 2500 people have been registered as missing after Dorian hit the Bahamas but many may be scattered across the islands and in various evacuation centres.

Bahamian officials say 2500 people have been registered as missing after the devastating Hurricane Dorian, a count they said may include people who have fled to shelters around the islands.

"This list has not yet been checked against government records of who are staying in shelters or who have been evacuated," National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Carl Smith told a news conference on Wednesday. "The database processing is underway."

Thousands of people are in shelters on the islands. Officials have confirmed 50 deaths caused by the September 1 storm but have warned that toll is likely to rise substantially.

Ayfon Minus, 8, collects food taken by helicopter from the capital to the village destroyed by Hurricane Dorian In High Rock, Grand Bahama.

Dorian slammed into the Bahamas over a week ago as one of the strongest Caribbean hurricanes on record, packing top sustained winds of 298 kilometres per hour.

Smith said more than 5000 people had evacuated to New Providence but that they had seen a "significant reduction" in the number of people asking to be evacuated.

Commercial flights to Abaco, one of the hardest-hit areas, will be resuming on Wednesday on a limited basis, officials said.

For some Bahamians who escaped death but lost their homes in Hurricane Dorian's hellish rampage over the islands of Freeport and Great Abaco, life in the tent shelters erected this week seems like purgatory.

"We feel like we're caged right now," said Dana Lafrance, a 35-year-old mother of five, who is one of hundreds of people living in a massive tent set up to extend the capacity of a gymnasium housing storm evacuees in central Nassau, the capital of the former British colony.

As evacuees from the devastated islands continue to flow in, the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association said on Tuesday it had built more than 15,000 square feet (1,394 square meters) of air-conditioned, tent housing for more than 800 people. Some 295 people were staying in those tents on Wednesday, Bahamian officials said.

More will come, with officials planning to erect two "tent city" relief centers capable of housing around 4,000 people around hard-hit Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island, John Michael-Clark, co-chairman of the Bahamas' disaster relief and reconstruction committee, told reporters this week.

A helicopter flies over the village of High Rock after delivering emergency supplies in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian In High Rock, Grand Bahama.

The two centers, one to the north of the town the other to the south, will provide temporary housing to people who wish to rebuild their homes on the island, he said. Officials estimated that 90% of the homes and buildings in Marsh Harbour were damaged or destroyed by Dorian's top sustained winds of 185 miles (298 km) per hour.

At least 50 people died in the storm, according to Bahamian authorities.

Officials have blocked journalists from entering the temporary housing facilities, but people staying in them described the conditions, saying hundreds of evacuees are sleeping on air beds and have been provided meals, clothing and basic hygiene necessities as they start rebuilding their lives.

In total, 1,357 people are staying at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium shelter and its three attached tents in Nassau, while several hundred more are housed in shelters across other parts of New Providence island, according to the Bahamas' National Emergency Management Agency. It is unclear how long they will be needed.

Homes lay in ruins one week after Hurricane Dorian hit The Mudd neighborhood, in the Marsh Harbor area of Abaco, Bahamas.

But Lafrance, who worked as a housekeeper at a resort on Abaco that has closed since Dorian, does not expect to be able to move out anytime soon.

"Our whole house was brought down, there's nothing," she said. "But I know I can't be here for no three months, I'm out of a job, they're saying I can’t get unemployment, I need to work."

Some 15,000 people are still in need of shelter or food, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. About 5,000 have been evacuated from the hardest-hit islands, which include Abaco, and another 6,000 to 7,000 remain there, according to a report shared by the U.N. World Food Programme on Wednesday.

"As the need arise, we will open other shelters," Carl Smith, spokesman for the Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency told reporters on Tuesday.

Finding a life that can compare to the one many Bahamians had on Abaco might be a challenge. President Donald Trump has rebuffed the idea of welcoming many Bahamians to the United States, even as a bipartisan group of lawmakers including U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida called on the White House to temporarily relax visa requirements.

Many of the evacuees said Nassau is a far different place from Abaco, which lacks any of the capital’s hustle and bustle.

"Here, there are neighborhoods where you can't go at night," said former Treasure Cay resident Caitlin Pierre, 15.

Five-year-old Cattleya Aranha helps to distribute paper rolls donated by private entities to victims of Hurricane Dorian, in Freeport, Bahamas.

Sitha Silene, 34, who lost her home and several relatives in the Pigeon Peas shantytown of Marsh Harbour, described difficult conditions inside the tents, where she said hundreds of people were piled together, sleeping on air beds.

A psychologist had offered her medication, Silene said, but she rejected it.

"I know they're gone, I saw them dead and I know there's nothing I can do about it," she said. "All I want to know is if I can bury my mom and my brother, that's the only thing I had."

With Reuters and AAP...

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