BAHAMAS (PM) — Officials in the Bahamas delivered more body bags and coolers as the fatalities from Hurricane Dorian rose to 30 and numerous people are still missing.
The quantity of fatalities is anticipated to dramatically climb as the scope of the damage becomes extremely clear.
“Literally hundreds, up to thousands, of people are still missing,” said Joy Jibrilu, director-general of the country’s tourism and aviation ministry, to CNN.
Dorian, the strongest hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas, cleared through the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island earlier this week, destroying entire neighborhoods and knocking out key infrastructure, including airport landing strips and a hospital.
Hundreds, if not thousands, are still missing in the country where an estimated 400,000 people reside, and officials say the death toll, which officially stands at 30, is anticipated to dart up as more bodies are discovered in the ruins and floodwaters left behind by the storm by relief workers still looking for any survivors.
Body bags, supplementary morticians and refrigerated coolers to collect bodies are being brought to Abaco and other affected areas, Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands told Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. Four morticians in Abaco are embalming remains because officials have run out of coolers, he stated.
Great Abaco Island has been left nearly uninhabitable. Workers were sifting through the rubble in protective suits, scanning for survivors, while militias attempted to deter looting. Aerial images reveal the level of destruction, from overturned cars to scattered debris ripped from houses.
The islands’ only international airport was unusable for evacuation and aid deliveries. The World Health Organization established field hospitals to attend to victims since flooding has rendered many hospitals unusable. Other affected areas in the Bahamas are also uninhabitable, such as Marsh Harbour.
“You smell the decomposing bodies as you walk through Marsh Harbour,” resident Sandra Sweeting told The Telegraph. “It’s everywhere. There are a lot of people who aren’t going to make it off this island.”
Sweeting’s sentiment is shared by many residents who said the official death toll has been woefully underestimated.
“I work part-time in a funeral home. I know what death smells like,” resident Anthony Thompson also told The Telegraph. “There must be hundreds, hundreds.”
Near an area called The Mudd at Marsh Harbour, the commercial hub of Great Abaco, a Reuters photographer described an emotionally devastating scene, with most houses leveled, a man lying deceased near the main street and deceased dogs in water. Some residents were departing the area with limited possessions, while others were determined to remain.
“The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering,” Health Minister Sands stated.
“Make no bones about it, the numbers will be far higher,” he stated. “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.”