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Dorian-struck Bahamas reports 2,500 people unaccounted for

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Kimberly Gerthadauphin looks up as a rescue helicopter files over in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas one week after Hurricane Dorian. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP

Dorian-struck Bahamas reports 2,500 people unaccounted for

Some 2,500 people are unaccounted for in the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian, the archipelago’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said Wednesday.

NEMA spokesman Carl Smith told reporters that some of the missing people may eventually be located.

“At this point, there are approximately 2,500 individuals registered on the Bahamian government register (of missing people),” Smith said.

“This list has not yet been checked against government records of who are staying in shelters or who have been evacuated,” he said.

“Some individuals who have been evacuated from Abaco and Grand Bahama have not yet registered with social services,” Smith said. “As we can cross-reference our data sets, we will be able to inform family members and reunite survivors with loved ones.”

Approximately 76,000 people were affected by Dorian, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said, citing official reports. Of these, thousands have been evacuated and about 860 are in emergency shelters in the capital city of Nassau.

At least 50 people died in the hurricane, which slammed into the northern Bahamas as a Category 5 storm, and officials have said they expect the number to rise significantly.

“We’re not going to speculate on what the final numbers will be,” Smith said. “We understand that people are concerned and so are we.”

The NEMA spokesman said more than 5,500 people have been evacuated so far from the northern Bahamas islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco, which were devastated by the storm.

‘We need many hands here’

He said that over the past day or so there had been a “significant reduction,” however, in the numbers of people seeking to leave.

“Everybody left and they shouldn’t have left. Unfortunately, because we need many hands here to work,” said Rhonda Hull, a lawyer, standing near the water’s edge and its shredded palm trees.

“But people will come back.”

With a truck on its side behind him, Irvin Russell said he loves “his island” and has to stay to see it rebuilt.

“This is just a bump in the road. It’s a big one, but Abaconians they are fighters, they will rebuild,” he said.

Smith said that permission was being given to resume commercial flights to Abaco on a “limited basis,” but priority would be given to relief and evacuation flights.

The NEMA spokesman said Abaco’s power grid had suffered extensive damage.

“Marsh Harbour power station was destroyed,” he said of the largest town on the island of more than 15,000 people.

An official with Bahamas Power and Light Ltd said electricity to the south of Abaco could be restored in about three weeks but it may be a few months before the rest of the island gets power.

Dorian likely caused between $3.5 and $6.5 billion in insured damages in the Caribbean, most notably in the Bahamas, California-based risk modelling and analytics firm RMS said on Monday.

After sowing mass destruction across the island, Hurricane Dorian delivered one final blow: an oil spill at the Norwegian Equinor facility.

Dozens of residents of the small town of High Rock have set up tents among the rubble that was once their homes, where they divvy up meagre handouts that come their way.

They survive amid the disaster, but now, adding insult to injury, they fear that the air that they breathe and the water that they drink is not safe.

Residents say the water filters they were given are not useful against the toxicity.

The oil is “deadly, deadly,” said Marco Roberts, 38, holding a mask and lamenting the poisoned state of his island.

Six km away the ground is saturated with a black, thick paste.

“The oil is leaking in the water, and now you can’t bathe in the water, or you can’t drink the water. The only water we can bathe in is what you all give us,” he said.

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