As Hurricane Dorian lashed the Carolina coast on Friday morning, officials in the Bahamas warned that hundreds of people are still missing and the final death toll is set to be “staggering.”
The official death toll currently stands at 30 but officials on Thursday sent 200 body bags to Great Abaco, the island where Dorian made landfall as a Category 5 storm on Sunday with wind speeds of 185mph.
“The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering,” Health Minister Duane Sands told a local radio station on Thursday.
"Make no bones about it, the numbers will be far higher [than the current death toll],” he said. “It is going to be significantly higher than that. And it's just a matter of retrieving those bodies, making sure we understand how they died. It seems like we are splitting hairs, but not everyone who died, died in the storm. It's going to be huge.”
Officials have sent additional morticians and refrigerated coolers to Great Abaco to deal with the expected influx of bodies. Morticians on the island have already begun embalming some bodies because space in coolers has run out.
At least hundreds of people on Great Abaco and Grand Bahama remain unaccounted for after the storm devastated thousands of homes when it sat stalled on top of the islands on Sunday and Monday.
"Literally hundreds, up to thousands, of people are still missing," Joy Jibrilu, director-general of the country's tourism and aviation ministry, told CNN.
Emergency responders from the U.S. Coast Guard, aid agencies, and the British Navy have been rescuing those stranded on the islands, as well as delivering food and drinking water to those in need.
The World Food Programme says that at least 60,000 people are in need of food relief on the islands.
"Getting relief to people in need is our number one priority," the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement Thursday. “We are doing everything we can to get aid to hard-to-reach places in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.”
Where is Dorian now?
According to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center, the eye of the storm is passing just east of Cape Lookout, NC. The storm is expected to batter the North Carolina coast on Friday morning.
According to the latest model from the Center, the eye of the storm, about 45 miles in diameter, could touch land on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Friday.
The storm has weakened to a Category 1 storm with sustained wind speeds of 90mph but the NHC is still warning that tropical storm conditions are spreading quickly along the North Carolina coast.
These conditions include strong winds and rain, which could potentially cause "life-threatening" flash floods. There were also reports of several tornadoes, which tend to form in a hurricane’s outer bands.
The Carolinas are already feeling the impact of Dorian: 271,000 homes and businesses are currently without power, according to blackout tracking site poweroutage.us.
There have also been at least five storm-related deaths in the U.S. The latest occurred when a North Carolina man died Thursday of a “medical condition while attempting to secure his boat before the storm,” according to Pamlico County Sheriff Chris Davis.
Trump continues to claim he’s right
On Thursday, as North and South Carolina began to feel the full effects of Dorian, U.S. President Donald Trump was focused on his feud with the media over his inaccurate claim that Alabama was going to be hit by the hurricane.
On Thursday Trump posted a quartet of photos that he claimed back up his assertion that Alabama was in danger.
But the photos were based on predictions that were completely out of date on Sunday, when Trump warned people in Alabama that they could be hit by Dorian, and repeated the claim on Monday.
Cover: A couple embraces on a road destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, as they walk to the town of High Rock to try and find their relatives in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, in Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)