- A spokesperson for the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said on Wednesday that the government has compiled a list of 2,500 missing persons after Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the island.
- He said the list has not been checked against government records of people who are staying at shelters or who have been evacuated from the areas most impacted by the storm.
- The official death toll from the catastrophic Category 5 storm which struck the Bahamas on September 1 stands at 50 as of Monday evening.
- Aid workers and residents have cast doubt on the government’s official death toll, and suggest thousands more could be dead or missing as rescuers clear through the wreckage.
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Emergency services in the Bahamas say there are 2,500 people registered as missing from the islands devastated by Hurricane Dorian, suggesting that the number of deaths from the Category 5 storm may be significantly higher than the current official count.
The official death toll from the Royal Bahamas Police Force stands at 50 as of Monday evening. Forty-two bodies were found on Abaco, and eight were recovered on Grand Bahama as rescue efforts on the devastated islands continue.
Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Spokesman Carl Smith said at a press briefing on Wednesday that the island’s Department of Social Services has compiled a list of 2,500 missing persons based on local reports.
The list has not been checked against government records of people who are staying at shelters or who have been evacuated, he said, adding that some individuals who were transported from Abaco and Grand Bahama have not yet registered with social services.
“Some of the government lists will have to be converted into digital format to allow for more effective cross-checking,” he said. “As we are able to cross-reference our data sets, we will be able to inform family members and reunite survivors with loved ones.”
More than five-thousand individuals have been evacuated to New Providence, the most populous island in the Bahamas where the capital city of Nassau is located, as of September 11, Smith said. Commercial flights have been allowed to resume flights to Abaco on a limited basis
Aid workers and residents have cast doubt on the government’s official death toll. Observers on the ground told the Bahamas Press that the actual count could be as high as 3,000 in just two neighbourhoods on the Abaco Islands.
DorianPeopleSearch.com, a platform set up by volunteers to report missing people after Dorian, reported over 4,500 people in its database whose status remains unknown.
Duane Sands, the Bahamas Minister of Health, told the New York Times on Thursday that the death toll “could be staggering.”
But Sands on Sunday said allegations that the government is covering up the actual death toll are “false” and “unfortunate.”
“The priority is find those people for their loved ones who are missing to them; to take care, provide comfort to those who are hurt, who are suffering,” he told The Miami Herald.
On Wednesday, a White House official dismissed suggestions that the US should invoke a temporary protected immigration status for residents of the Bahamas seeking shelter after Dorian.
“At this time we do not plan to invoke Temporary Protected Status for those currently in the United States,” the Guardian reported, citing a White House official.
The Bahamas looks like ‘nuclear bombs were dropped’
Dorian hit the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm on September 1 with sustained wind speeds of 185 mph and a storm surge that reached as high as 23 feet in some parts of the island.
It tied the record for the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall ever, battering the Bahamas with strong winds and heavy rains that caused flooding so catastrophic that the runway of the main airport in the Bahamas was left completely underwater.
USAID director Mark Green said on Sunday that entire communities were completely decimated by the storm.
“What I was struck by was the focused nature of the devastation,” he said at a press conference. “There are parts of Abaco and the Bahamas that don’t show a great deal of damage, and then there are clusters and communities that were devastated, almost as though nuclear bombs were dropped on them.”