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Death Toll Rises to 23 in Bahamas, as Stories of Survival Emerge

NASSAU, Bahamas — Days after Hurricane Dorian bore down in fury on the Bahamas, leaving at least 23 people dead and thousands homeless, harrowing stories of survival have begun to emerge.

Sandra Cooke, a resident of Nassau, the capital, said her sister-in-law had been trapped under a collapsed roof in the Abaco Islands. At first, her brother couldn’t find his wife, but the family dog eventually detected her in the rubble. When there was a break in the storm, neighbors helped free her.

Ms. Cooke was reunited with her sister-in-law on Tuesday.

“She was trapped under the roof for 17 hours,” said Ms. Cooke on Wednesday, adding that she had hired a private helicopter service to bring the rescued woman to Nassau.

[Here’s how to help Hurricane Dorian survivors in the Bahamas.]

Marvin Dames, the minister of national security, said at a news conference on Wednesday night that the process of clearing the streets and making airports available had already begun on the Abaco Islands and on Grand Bahama, the two areas of the archipelago hit hardest by the hurricane, one of the strongest Atlantic storms on record.

Aerial footage taken over the Abacos showed roads washed away and debris scattered across beaches. Splintered wood jutted from clusters of damaged homes.

Gaining access to Marsh Harbour, the largest city on Abaco Island, has been problematic, with the airport, Leonard M. Thompson International, left underwater for days after the storm. Like Ms. Cooke, other people also resorted to private companies to help in the evacuations.

A British Navy vessel is stationed near Marsh Harbour for relief support and has been distributing food and water.

There are no official estimates of the number of people displaced by the storm. But in Marsh Harbour, as many as 2,000 people were seeking shelter in a clinic and a government complex.

“Already we have begun the process of evacuating people from Abaco into New Providence,” said Dr. Duane Sands, the country’s minister of health, on Thursday. New Providence is the island where Nassau is located. “Those airlifts have started.”

He said some evacuees were being sent to the Kendall G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium in Nassau, but that additional shelters would have to be identified.

Dr. Sands also said it was possible that tent cities would be set up on Abaco Island.

The Norwegian energy company Equinor said the hurricane had damaged its oil storage terminal in South Riding Point on the island of Grand Bahama. The terminal was leaking, the company said, but it was too early to tell how much oil had spilled.

During a flight Wednesday over the terminal The New York Times saw storage tanks that appeared to have no lid. The domed tops of five of its tanks were “gone,” a company spokesman said, but only three contained significant amounts of oil before the hurricane.

Oil was visible on the ground surrounding the tanks, but the seawater around the terminal was clear.

“Ahead of the hurricane we shut down the terminal as a precautionary measure and the terminal has been designed with hurricanes and storms in mind,” said Erik Haaland, a company spokesman. “The areas surrounding the tanks are also designed as barriers to contain oil spills. So far we have not received information that oil has been observed at sea.”

Some areas near the terminal had been evacuated at the request of local authorities. The company was still trying to establish a better overview of the terminal and said it was “mounting a safe and timely response to the situation.”

“While weather conditions on the island have improved, road conditions and flooding continue to impact our ability to assess the situation and the scope of damages to the terminal and its surroundings,” the statement said.

No Equinor employees were at the terminal when the storm passed. Equinor, formerly known as Statoil, said it shut down operations of the terminal at noon last Saturday in preparation for the hurricane. The workers were given time off to look after their families and secure their private homes, the statement said.

The storm made landfall in the Bahamas on Sunday as a Category 5 hurricane and stalled there for three days, inundating the islands and destroying homes and businesses.

In the days since, the storm has weakened significantly, and by Thursday morning was swirling off the coast of the Carolinas as a Category 3 hurricane. Residents there were bracing for dangerous rain, winds and storm surge.

[The Carolinas are next in Hurricane Dorian’s path. We have live updates.]

In the Bahamas, officials made pleas for support and prayers from the international community.

“There are no words to convey the grief we feel for our fellow Bahamians in the Abacos and Grand Bahama,” Dionisio D’Aguilar, the tourism and aviation minister, said in a statement. “Now is the time to come together for our brothers and sisters in need, and help our country get back on its feet.”

He urged travelers to visit areas in the Bahamas that were not affected by the storm in order to aid the country’s economic recovery.

Source: NYT > World News

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