Hurricane Dorian kills five and leaves trail of destruction across Bahamas

  • Video report by ITV News Reporter Paul Davies

Hurricane Dorian has unleashed massive flooding across the Bahamas, killing at least five people.

Prime minister Hubert Minnis said at least five died in the Abaco Islands and there are people in nearby Great Bahama island who are in serious distress.

He said rescue crews will respond to calls for help as soon as weather conditions allow, adding: "We are in the midst of a historic tragedy."

The hurricane left a trail of destruction as it stalled over the Bahamas; ripping rooves from homes, flooding communities and forcing rescue teams to seek shelter from 220 mph gusts.

The category four storm almost slowed to a standstill over the islands, leaving emergency services dealing with a "tremendous" number of calls from people trapped in flooded homes.

Residents were been urged to "bunker down" by Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama.

Forecasters predicted a storm surge of up to 23ft, by contrast the country's highest point is little over 200ft with most of it led at or near sea level.

CNN Correspondent Patrick Oppmann is on Grand Bahama and reports he is not safe to leave cover in the storm

He said: "If I were to leave and go outside the building where we are hunkered down, you just wouldn't be able to drive.

"I would get knocked down immediately, the wind is that strong and people I've talked to say they're just waiting and praying for Hurricane Dorian to leave the Bahamas."

The wind speeds tied the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to come ashore - it equalled the Labour Day hurricane of 1935, before the storms were named.

Thompson and other officials said they were getting distress calls about rising floodwaters but said rescuers could not go out in the violent weather.

The storm had churned over Abaco Island with battering winds and surf and left a trail of devastation in its wake.

Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas' Ministry of Tourism and Aviation said: "It's devastating.

"There has been huge damage to property and infrastructure. Luckily, no loss of life reported."

Hurricane Dorian is a category 4 storm. Credit: PA Graphics

The Red Cross estimates that 13,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged on the Bahamas.

Video footage that Ms Jibrilu said was sent by Abaco residents showed homes missing parts of their roofs, downed power lines and smashed and overturned cars.

One showed floodwaters rushing through the streets of an unidentified town at nearly the height of a car roof.

In some parts of Abaco, “you cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street versus where the ocean begins”, said Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.

The devastation left behind by Hurricane Dorian. Credit: AP

Mr Minnis had warned that anyone who did not evacuate was “in extreme danger and can expect a catastrophic consequence”.

The hurricane's westward movement had slowed to just 1mph and it was creeping westward over the Grand Bahama Island, as of 11am local time (4pm BST).

Dorian's centre was 30 miles east-northeast of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island and 115 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida.

  • When will Hurricane Dorian head to the US?

Forecasters said Dorian was likely to begin pulling away from the Bahamas early on Tuesday and curve to the north-east parallel to the US south-east seaboard.

After the Bahamas, the slow-crawling storm was forecast to skirt toward the US coast, staying just off Florida and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday and then buffet South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday.

The four southern states have all declared states of emergency.

The potent storm was expected to stay close to shore and hammer the coast with dangerous winds and heavy surf, while authorities cautioned that it could still make landfall.

Hurricane Dorian's predicted path. Credit: PA Graphics

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire coast of the state amid Dorian’s threat.

The order, which covers about 830,000 people, come into effect at noon local time (5pm BST) on Monday, when state troopers will begin reversing lanes so they all head inland on major coastal highways.

“We can’t make everybody happy,” Mr McMaster said. “But we believe we can keep everyone alive.”

Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp also ordered a mandatory evacuation of the state’s Atlantic coast, also starting at noon on Monday.

Authorities in Florida ordered mandatory evacuations in some vulnerable coastal areas.

A baby sleeps inside a church that was opened up as a shelter for residents. Credit: AP