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A Week After Hurricane Dorian, We Still Don't Know How Many People are Missing in the Bahamas

The storm has left 70,000 people homeless, and locals say the government response has been "ridiculous".

by David Gilbert
09 September 2019, 12:51pm

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

More than a week after Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas, officials still have no clear idea how many people are missing and how many people the storm killed.

On Sunday, the official death toll from the worst storm to ever hit the islands nudged up by one, to 44. But seven days after the storm made landfall on Great Abaco as a Category 5 hurricane, bodies lay strewn across the islands, some buried beneath the remains in rubble that used to be buildings, others lying in plain sight.

There is no official estimate of how many people remain unaccounted for, but most unofficial estimates say hundreds if not thousands of people are missing or dead.

Many of those missing are suspected to be undocumented Haitian immigrants who lived in shanty towns in Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco.

The devastating storm, which lingered over the islands for two days, has left 70,000 people across Great Abaco and Grand Bahama homeless and in need of food and water. In the worst-hit parts of the islands, up to 90% of buildings have been destroyed.

The situation has now developed into a “humanitarian crisis,” the Bahamian government said over the weekend, as thousands of people were evacuated from the islands by air and sea.

READ: Hurricane Dorian's death toll in the Bahamas will be ‘staggering’

A cruise liner carrying 1,400 survivors arrived in Florida over the weekend.

However, on Sunday, hundreds of Bahamians were forced to leave a ferry destined for Fort Lauderdale, after Customs and Border Protection officials told authorities in Freeport to check that all passengers had valid identity and travel documents.

USAID Administrator Mark Green, who surveyed the islands over the weekend, told reporters Sunday that it looked "almost as though nuclear bombs were dropped on them.”

"I saw 80 bodies"

Some citizens have claimed the Bahamian government is trying to cover up the extent of the death toll, but the government dismissed such allegations.

Health Minister Duane Sands addressed the claims of a cover-up Sunday, saying such information was “false and unfortunate,” adding that providing an official body count was “not a priority” at the moment.

“The priority is find those people for their loved ones who are missing them; to take care, provide comfort to those people who are hurt, who are suffering, that’s the priority. To put food in people’s bellies, water in their throat,” Sands told the Miami Herald.

Some residents, however, have said they have personally counted scores of dead bodies, and claim the death toll could reach four figures:

On Sunday, the government announced a hotline for Bahamians to report family members who have been unaccounted for since the storm.

Others have criticized the authorities for a slow response in getting aid and supplies to the islands after the storm passed.

It’s ridiculous. Ridiculous,” Martin McCafferty, a contractor based in Marsh Harbour, the biggest town on the Abaco Islands told the New York Times. “This is a catastrophe, and they should be here in numbers.”

READ: Rescuers use jet skis and bulldozers to save hurricane survivors in the Bahamas

“We've had to funnel gasoline out of destroyed cars to get injured people back and forth. There's no food, no medicine and no water," Tepeto Davis, 37, a resident on Great Abaco said. “We're suffering out here and no-one cares about us.”

The government said there were more than 900 members of the Bahamian police and military on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands to help with hurricane relief, along with security personnel from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S., and the U.K.

Dorian is still causing chaos

On Saturday, Dorian made landfall again when it battered the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, bringing hurricane-force winds to the far-eastern coast of the country.

While it has been downgraded to a post-tropical storm, Dorian is still sustaining hurricane-force winds around 75 mph.

The storm has knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people, toppled a huge construction crane, and ripped roofs off apartment buildings in the city of Halifax.

On Sunday evening, in its final update on Dorian, the National Hurricane Center said the storm was moving away from the Canadian coast and into open water.

Trump Can’t Stop

Over the weekend U.S. President Donald Trump prolonged a week-long controversy over false claims he made about Dorian’s trajectory, by retweeting a bizarre cat meme related to the media’s coverage of his comments.

The video, which shows Trump displaying hurricane maps in the Oval Office alongside a cat following a laser pointer, was initially tweeted by a pro-Trump Twitter account with the caption: “Live look at CNN.”

READ: This is the dumbest White House scandal in history and Trump can’t let it go

The tweet prolongs one of the dumbest scandals of Trump’s presidency, and one that the president appears unwilling to let die.

Trump began the controversy last weekend when he falsely claimed that Alabama was in danger of being hit by the storm, despite the national weather service and others directly contradicting him.

The decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to back Trump’s version of events over its own scientists has left many people within the wider weather community very angry.

Cover: A man walks over what remains of homes in the area called The Mudd after it was devastated by Hurricane Dorian on Abaco Island, Bahamas, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Dorian was the most powerful hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas' recorded history. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)