1. ITV Report

Dorian survivors look to rebuild lives in wake of hurricane devastation

A toilet stands amid the rubble of what was once a home. Credit: Ramon Espinosa/AP

Thousands of Hurricane Dorian survivors in the Bahamas have returned to the ruins of their homes with the hopes of rebuilding their lives.

But where to begin?

While some are lucky enough to temporarily stay with friends and family, others are not so fortunate and have no idea where to go.

Many will have to stay in the capital of Nassau, and live in either hotels or already overflowing shelters.

It's been estimated that up to 10,000 people from the Abaco islands alone, including Treasure Cay, will need food, water and temporary housing.

Officials are considering setting up tent or container cities, while they clear the country’s ravaged northern region of debris.

Dimple Lightbourne, left, and her mother Carla Ferguson sit in a plane. Credit: Fernando Llano/AP

Carla Ferguson, a 51-year-old resident of Treasure Cay, walked out of a small airport in Nassau with her daughter and other relatives late on Monday afternoon and looked around as the sun set.

“We don’t know where we’re going to stay,” she said.

“We don’t know.”

Ms Ferguson and her family had one large duffel bag and three plastic storage boxes, most of them stuffed with donated clothes they received before leaving their tiny, devastated island.

“No one deserves to go through this,” said her daughter, 30-year-old Dimple Lightbourne, blinking away tears.

Homes lay in ruins one week after Hurricane Dorian hit The Mudd neighbourhood, in the Marsh Harbour area of Abaco, Bahamas. Credit: Fernando Llano/AP

Getting back to Abaco is the dream of Betty Edmond, a 43-year-old cook. She picked at some fries Monday night, with her son and husband in a Nassau hotel restaurant, where her nephew is paying for their stay.

They arrived in Nassau on Saturday night after a six-hour boat trip from Abaco and plan to fly to South Florida on Wednesday, thanks to plane tickets bought by friends who will provide them a temporary home until they can find jobs.

A bathtub stands amid the rubble Credit: Ramon Espinosa/AP

But the goal is to return, Ms Edmond said.

“Home will always be home,” she said. “Every day you wish you could go back.”

“You try to keep your hopes up, but …,” she added, her voice trailing off as she shook her head.

The upheaval, however, was exciting to her eight-year-old son, Kayden Monestime, who said he was looking forward to going to a shopping centre, McDonald’s and Foot Locker.

Instead of starting school on Monday, as had been scheduled before the Category 5 storm hit, Kayden spent the day accompanying his parents to the bank and a shelter as they prepared for the move to the US.

A woman goes through the rubble of her own home destroyed by the hurricane. Credit: AP

Also flying to Florida was 41-year-old Shaneka Russell - who owned Smacky’s Takeaway - a restaurant known for its cracked conch that opened in 2005 and was named after the noises her son made as a baby.

Ms Russell’s mother once ran the place, which was destroyed by Dorian.

On Monday, she sat in a white plastic chair under a white plastic tarpaulin as she waited for her 13-year-old son to arrive from Abaco.

Ms Russell said good Samaritans had taken her and a group of people into their home over the weekend and found them a hotel room in Nassau for a couple of days.

“To know that we were going to a hotel, with electricity and air conditioning and a proper shower, I cried,” she said.

“I’ve never been through anything like this in my life.”

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Dorian slammed into Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands a week ago as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever.

The death toll from the hurricane has risen to at least 50, health minister Duane Sands said.

Authorities say they expect to find more bodies as they search through debris in devastated areas of the northern Bahamas.

Bahamas coroners team carrying out a body from the wreckage. Credit: AP

Members of the Gainesville, Florida, fire department were checking the ruins of The Mudd, the Bahamas’ largest Haitian immigrant community on Great Abaco.

“We’ve probably hit at most one-tenth of this area, and so far we found five human remains,” said Joseph Hillhouse, assistant chief of Gainesville Fire Rescue.

“I would say based off of our sample size, we’re going to see more.”

After US teams recovered some bodies, Bahamas police and medical authorities moved in to conduct post mortems and fly the bodies south to Nassau.

A man walks over what remains of homes. Credit: Fernando Llano/AP

“There are still more bodies,” said Genoise Arnold, a resident of The Mudd, who knew of at least three neighbours killed during the storm.

Ms Arnold said one neighbour clung to a tree during Dorian and succumbed to flood waters that surged through the low-lying neighbourhood.

Others were caught under their homes when winds turned the structures into splinters, leaving the cowering residents exposed, he said.

The huge debris piles left by the storm are challenging for search and recovery teams, which cannot use bulldozers or other heavy equipment to search for the dead.

That makes recovery and identification a slow process.

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Ms Lightbourne, an Abaco resident now in Nassau, said she could not wait to escape the disaster Dorian left behind, and make her way to the US.

“I don’t want to see the Bahamas for a while. It’s stressful,” she said.

“I want to go to America. …This is a new chapter. I’ve ripped all the pages out. Just give me a new book to fill out.”

US politicians are pushing the White House to suspend visa requirements so stranded Bahamians can be reunited with family in the US.

However, it may not be that simple, with the Trump administration refusing anyone who does not have a US visa into the country.

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Justifying the decision, President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House: “We have to be very careful. Everyone needs totally proper documentation.

"I don’t want to allow people who weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people."

However, officials have said if the recovery process takes a "lengthy" amount of time, providing Bahamians protected status could be on the table.

"If the history shows that it’s taken a lengthy time to get the Bahamas back to where these people can return to, I’m sure that that will be a discussion that we’d be having," said Acting commissioner of US customs and border protection Mark Morgan at a White House briefing.