Some 2,500 people are still listed as missing in the Bahamas more than a week after Hurricane Dorian pummelled the Caribbean island chain, although that number may include evacuees who fled to shelters, authorities said on Wednesday.
Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told the nation in a televised address that the death toll from Dorian remained at 50, but conceded that the large number of people missing meant that number would rise.
“The number of deaths is expected to significantly increase,” Minnis said, adding the government was being transparent and would provide “timely information on the loss of life as it is available.”
Emergency management officials told a separate news conference that the list of missing had not yet been checked against records of evacuees or the thousands of people staying in shelters.
“My friends are missing, a few of my cousins are missing over there, five in total, they lived in Marsh Harbour,” said Clara Bain, a 38-year-old tour guide, referring to the Abaco town where officials estimate that 90% of homes and buildings were damaged or destroyed.
“Everyone on the islands are missing someone, it’s really devastating,” she said.
Dorian slammed into the Bahamas on Sept. 1 as a Category 5 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity, one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record to make a direct hit on land and packing top sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (298 kph).
“Our sympathies go out to the families of each person who died,” Minnis said. “Let us pray for them during this time of grief. We offer you our shoulders to cry on. You will never be forgotten.”