Abaco tour PM returning
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis (front right) shown returning from an aerial tour of The Abacos, with US Officials on September 3rd, 2019.

Prime Minister of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, The Most Honourable Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on Tuesday, September 3rd 2019, that the official death toll in the country from the catastrophic category five hurricane, Dorian, now stood at seven people.  He soberly added that more deaths were expected, and that those numbers were just preliminary.  The Prime Minister was at the fourth national press conference held on Hurricane Dorian, hosted at 8pm within NEMA’s headquarters on New Providence.

Dorian which gradually weakened to a Category 2 storm on Tuesday as it crept northwest at 1, 2 and 6mph through the day, still continued to push dangerous winds and life-threatening storm surge onto Grand Bahama even as it had begun lashing the Florida coast from offshore, according to the National Hurricane Center. These conditions in Grand Bahama are expected to wane overnight, and officials anticipate the All-Clear in the Bahamas to be issued at 5:00am on Wednesday morning, September 4th.

Unprecedented in the Bahamas in wind force, which reached 185 mph sustained winds with gusts in excess of 200 mph, the tragedy of Dorian was exacerbated by its initial slow crawl across Abaco Island and then stalling over Grand Bahama for over 24 hours.

Calls for help being relayed on national radio were chilling at times, bringing home the reality of the dangerous, trying and sometimes deadly circumstances being experienced by the Bahamians in these two islands who were coming to grips with an unimaginable reality.

The Prime Minister in his conference described parts of Abaco as decimated.  He, along with US Officials, aboard a US Coastguard vessel, conducted an aerial tour of The Abacos in an initial assessment and reconnaissance mission.  Grand Bahama, said the PM, would be assessed after the All-Clear was given.  In his description of the destruction on Abaco, PM Minnis said there was severe flooding and catastrophic damage to homes, businesses and other infrastructure, with an estimated 60% of homes in Marsh Harbour damaged.

The Mudd, an immigrant township in Abaco, was described as completely destroyed.  The international airport in Marsh Harbour was said to be under water, including the runway, and the surrounding area was like a lake, said the PM. The Treasure Cay airport was reported as still functional, however, the main access road was under water. Cooper’s Town was described as having damage, but less than Marsh Harbour. Southern Abaco was also said to have suffered less damage than areas in the north.

During the aerial tour, the Prime Minister relayed seeing a group of 30 people trapped within their community, waving yellow flags to get their attention, and assured the nation that rescue units had been dispatched before they left The Abacos to those individuals.  He emphasized that the priority of the Bahamas government at this time was search, rescue and recovery – with the urgent task of providing food, water, shelter, safety and security to the victims of Hurricane Dorian.

The first of those relief missions would take place on Tuesday night, he said, with a Royal Navy vessel scheduled to deliver food to Abaco, followed by NEMA with a planned delivery of food on Wednesday.  Planning was also underway, said PM Minnis, for other teams to supply relief once the All-Clear was given.

Hurricane Dorian at 5pm on Tuesday, September 3rd was a weaker but expanded storm with 110mph max, hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 60 miles (95 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 175 miles (280 km).