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Rescuers Use Jet Skis and Bulldozers to Save Hurricane Survivors in the Bahamas

Rescue groups and volunteers are scrambling to pull people out of floodwaters and off roofs in the midst of "total devastation".

by David Gilbert
04 September 2019, 2:34pm

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Volunteer rescuers in the Bahamas are resorting to using boats, jet skis, and even bulldozers to try to save people stranded in the floodwaters after Hurricane Dorian left at least seven people dead and thousands more homeless.

Rescue workers are struggling to navigate Grand Bahama island, with the airport under six feet of water and roads made impassable by the rubble of thousands of homes.

Rescue groups that included civilians, aid agencies, the British Navy, and the U.S. Coast Guard delivered food and medicine to those stranded on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama after 48 hours of what's been described as “pure hell.”

As they waited for the arrival of the coast guard, groups of citizens have been working around the clock to rescue people who are stranded on rooftops or swimming in the floodwaters.

Dorian made landfall on Great Abaco Sunday afternoon as a Category 5 Hurricane with wind speeds of 185mph, and finally departed Grand Bahama on Tuesday as a Category 2 storm with sustained wind speeds of 110mph. Dorian barely moved on Monday and early on Tuesday, which made it impossible to begin rescue efforts until Tuesday evening.

Entire neighborhoods have been obliterated, with mounds of rubble strewn across Great Abaco.

"You can't tell that there are any homes there. It looks like a bunch of building materials were put in a big grinder and thrown on the ground," Brandon Clement, who flew over Great Abaco in a helicopter Tuesday, told CNN.

READ: Here's a heartbreaking look at what Dorian did to the Bahamas

The recovery program will likely cost billions of dollars, government officials said, adding that they fear the death toll is going to rise sharply as rescuers reach remote parts of the islands.

“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a news conference. “No effort or resources will be held back.”

Lia Head-Rigby, who helps run a local hurricane relief group, said her colleagues on Great Abaco told her there were “a lot more dead” on the island, but she couldn’t say how many.

READ: Hurricane Dorian has killed at least 5 people in the Bahamas and now it 'won’t budge'

“It’s total devastation. It’s decimated. Apocalyptic,” Head-Rigby, who flew over the Abaco Islands, told the Associated Press. “It’s not rebuilding something that was there; we have to start again.”

The World Food Program and the Red Cross said Tuesday that early estimates suggest over 60,000 people are in need of food and clean drinking water, while the Red Cross added it believed up to 45% of all the houses on Abaco and Grand Bahama were damaged or destroyed.

READ: Trump keeps saying he’s never heard of a Category 5 hurricane

The storm has now begun lashing the coast of Florida. More than 7,000 people there are already without power, and thousands of residents are facing the threat of flash flooding. Dorian has weakened (currently to 105mph), but it has picked up speed, and is now moving north-northwest at 8mph, according to the latest NHC update.

While meteorologists continue to struggle to predict Dorian’s exact path, the threat of a direct hit on Florida has eased significantly.

However, the NHC is warning residents that Dorian will “move dangerously close to the Florida east coast and the Georgia coast through [Wednesday night]. The center of Dorian is forecast to move near or over the coast of South Carolina and North Carolina Thursday through Friday morning.”

Cover: A woman who was trapped by flood waters during Hurricane Dorian is transported out of the area by volunteers on a jet ski near the Causarina bridge in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. The storm’s punishing winds and muddy brown floodwaters devastated thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and trapped people in attics. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)