September 03, 2019

Hurricane Dorian thrashes Bahamas and kills at least five as it barrels towards US
Hurricane Dorian lost some of its punch but grew in size on Tuesday, picking up speed and forecast to come "dangerously close" to Florida's coast after pounding Grand Bahama Island for about a day, killing at least five people One of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record had hovered over the Bahamas on Tuesday killing at least five people and levelling houses.  The storm is expected to approach dangerously close to the southeastern coast of the US, according to forecasters, who have warned it could inflict damage from Florida to Virginia and beyond. On Tuesday the Hurricane weakened to a Category 2 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale early on Tuesday, with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center moved the storm's "cone of uncertainty" slightly eastward on Monday, but they stressed a minor change could see Dorian head back to the mainland. The storm battered the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, which have a combined population of about 70,000 and are no more than 40 feet (12 meters) above sea level at their highest points. The Grand Bahama airport was under 6 feet (2 meters) of water. Homes underwater in the Bahamas Desperate callers trying to find loved ones left messages with local radio stations as the country's health minister said medical teams would be sent to the Abaco islands by the afternoon. Twenty-one people were reported to have been airlifted to the capital by the US Coast Guard. Hubert Minnis, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, said the Abaco Islands, which on Sunday received the full brunt of Dorian, had been seriously damaged and that police had confirmed the deaths of five people. "Our focus right now is search, rescue and recovery," Mr Minnis told reporters at a news conference. "I ask for your prayers for those in affected areas and for our first responders." As many as 13,000 homes may have been severely damaged, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with extensive flooding and contaminated wells. A woman seeks cover from wind, blowing sand and rain whipped up by Hurricane Dorian on Cocoa Beach, Florida. Officials said it was too early to make a complete assessment of the damage because high winds and rain made it difficult to reach many of the smaller islands in the Bahamas. At 10am on Tuesday, the hurricane remained stationary, the NHC said, whipping the Caribbean island with torrential rains and winds of 120 mph (195 kmh), with higher gusts. The storm is forecast to resume moving northwest overnight. "Although gradual weakening is forecast, Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next couple of days," the NHC said in an earlier bulletin. Hurricane Dorian batters Bahamas and threatens US coastline from Florida to the Carolinas, in pictures Fear gripped residents of Freeport, as winds tore off shutters and water began entering homes, Yasmin Rigby told the Associated Press by text message from Grand Bahama Island's main city. "People who thought they were safe are now calling for help," Ms Rigby said. "My best friend's husband is stuck in the roof of their house with seven feet (two meters) water below." Video posted on the website of the Bahamian newspaper Tribune 242 showed water up to the roofs of wooden houses in what appeared to be a coastal town. Capsized boats floated in muddy brown water dotted with wooden boards, tree branches and other debris. The US Coast Guard deployed helicopters to Abaco, while three humanitarian experts from Britain were also deployed to assist efforts, the Department for International Development said. The British Royal Navy auxiliary ship RFA Mounts Bay, capable of carrying specialist water rescue vehicles and includes a helicopter, had been pre-positioned in the region to offer support. Flattened homes in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas Residents of Grand Bahama were being told to stay inside their hurricane shelters as in Freeport, the main town, winds tore off shutters and water began coming into homes. "People who thought they were safe are now calling for help," said Yasmin Rigby, from the island. "My best friend's husband is stuck in the roof of their house with seven feet of water below." Video posted on the website of the Bahamian newspaper Tribune 242 showed water up to the roofs of wooden houses in what appeared to be a coastal town as capsized boats floated with other debris. The NHC forecast an 18 to 23 foot storm surge above tide levels in parts of Grand Bahama, accompanied by large and destructive waves. The storm looked on track to head towards the US coast by Monday evening. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina ordered hundreds of thousands of residents to evacuate, beginning at noon on Monday. Authorities block a road in Jensen Beach, Florida  Credit: ADAM DELGIUDICE/AFP Meanwhile, airports were closed in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Palm Beach, and almost 1,000 flights were cancelled. President Donald Trump met with his emergency management chiefs on Sunday and declared "this looks monstrous." "We expect that much of the eastern seaboard will be ultimately impacted and some of it very, very severely," he said. Florida issued evacuation orders in parts of Palm Beach, home of Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, and Martin Counties and South Carolina followed suit with orders down the state's coast. Georgia separately gave mandatory orders to evacuate six coastal counties, and the entire city of Savannah. Both orders took effect on Monday at noon. Dorian was tied with Gilbert (1988), Wilma (2005) and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane for the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, based on maximum sustained winds. Hurricane Allen in 1980 was the most powerful, with 190 mph winds, the NHC said. Although Dorian is expected to weaken gradually, forecasters said it likely would remain a powerful hurricane for the next couple of days.
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