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Devastation in Bahamas as Hurricane Dorian crawls towards US coast

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Hurricane Dorian has weakened slightly as it crawls towards the United States after leaving at least seven people dead in the Bahamas.

At least seven people have been killed in the Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said, after the storm delivered a devastating blow to the islands.

Mr Minnis said an additional two individuals had died, saying "that would take the number of deaths to seven."

"We can expect more deaths to be recorded," he added.

Bahamas National Security Minister Marvin Dames said several children were among the deaths reported in the Atlantic archipelago from the monster storm and predicted more fatalities.

"I can't see any way out of it," the Nassau Guardian newspaper quoted Mr Dames as telling reporters.

Aerial footage of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas broadcast by CNN showed scenes of catastrophic damage, with hundreds of homes missing roofs, overturned cars, widespread flooding and debris strewn all over.

"This was a crisis of epic proportions," Mr Dames said. "Maybe the worst that we've experienced, certainly in our lifetime."

The runways at Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport, the island's largest city, were under water, complicating rescue and recovery efforts.

The online Bahamas Press published video of flooding in the Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport and said patients had been forced to evacuate.

The US Coast Guard sent MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters to Andros Island in the southern Bahamas to help with search and rescue operations as residents trapped in their homes by floodwaters issued distress calls.

Bahamas Press published pictures and the names of people who have been reported missing by their relatives on Abaco island.

Ken Graham, director of the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC), said Dorian was on the move after being "stationary for more than 24 hours battering the Bahamas."

Dorian, which has dumped as much as 76 centimeters of rain on the Bahamas, was downgraded Tuesday morning from a Category 3 to a Category 2 storm on the five-level wind scale.

But it remained an extremely dangerous hurricane as it moved toward the coast of the southern US states of Florida, Georgia and South and North Carolina.

A state of emergency has been declared up and down the coast for millions of US residents potentially in the path of the storm.

The Pentagon said 5,000 members of the National Guard and 2,700 active duty troops were ready to help out if needed.

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Bahamas woman begs for prayers amid Hurricane Dorian
Bahamas woman begs for prayers amid Hurricane Dorian

'Still raining'

At 4:00 pm (2000 GMT), Dorian was packing maximum sustained winds of 110 miles (175 kilometers) per hour, the NHC said.

Dorian was located about 105 miles east of Fort Pierce, Florida, and moving in a northwesterly direction towards the Florida coast at five miles per hour, it said.

The NHC said Dorian was expected to pick up speed and grow in size during the day and turn toward the north on Wednesday evening.

"The hurricane will then move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late today through Wednesday evening, very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday, and near or over the North Carolina coast late Thursday and Thursday night," the NHC said.

Yasmin Rigby, a resident of Freeport, told AFP by text message on Tuesday that "most of the island is still flooded" and it was "still raining with gusty winds."

"I am still getting calls from people calling for help," Rigby said. "I cannot move from my apartment. Thankfully we have sufficient supplies."

In Coconut Grove, Florida, which has a sizeable population from the Bahamas, residents were collecting supplies for hurricane victims.

"We are looking for cases of water, canned food, can openers, flashlights, baby formula, diapers, mosquito repellent, small generators," said Nathaniel Robinson, the pastor of the Greater St Paul AME church.

Robinson said seven seaplanes were on standby to deliver the supplies "when the weather permits."

"Hopefully tomorrow," he said.

'Lost everything'

Robinson said some church members have family who were "devastated by the storm."

"Some have lost everything they own," he said. "Their homes, any forms of transportation, businesses. They have absolutely nothing."

Henry Gomez, who was visiting Florida from New York, was among those dropping off supplies. "I feel bad for the Bahamas, what they're going through right now," Mr Gomez said. "We all have to chip in and help."

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