NASSAU, Bahamas – Hurricane Dorian obliterated neighborhoods in Great Abaco and the Grand Bahama islands in northwest Bahamas. Family homes were turned into large piles of splintered plywood and twisted metal. There were cars trapped around refrigerators, couches and detached window frames and doors.
Bahamian authorities said the Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds left at least 30 people dead and hundreds have vanished. As the storm turned the paradisaic tropical beauty into hell, some survivors are looking for a way out.
Carol Lowe said she expects the number of victims to rise significantly. The U.S. Coast Guard helped her to escape to Nassau Thursday with her 90-year-old mother from Great Abaco's Marsh Harbour. She saw the damage from above.
"Because of the bodies and stuff, you know, it will be unsanitary," Lowe said, adding that she fears survivors are now at risk of dying of diseases and crimes related to the chaotic aftermath of the storm.
Injured survivors continued to arrive to a medical staging area in Nassau. The U.S. Navy is coordinating flights in and out of Freeport, Grand Bahama's largest city, which took a beating during the storm. The public and private sector in South Florida is playing a large part in the international humanitarian effort.
"There are a lot of traumatic injuries, fractures, lacerations. They are coming on with small and severe infections like cellulitis and gangrene," said Dr. Alvery Hanna, the director of the Bahamas' National Emergency Medical Services.
Martysta Turnquest is among a group of volunteers who are running a private evacuation effort with charter flights to Nassau. Turnquest said they evacuated about 130 people on Thursday. She said their effort is not going fast enough.
"We can't leave people over there in the conditions that they are in and with each story, with each person that gets to safety, you just are reminded of who is still there, and this is just the beginning of the uphill battle," Turnquest said. "And until everyone is here, we can't really make it to the next step."
"It's crazy," said Ostian Dean, while holding her baby girl, after the U.S. Coast Guard rescued them from Marsh Harbour, where the storm destroyed her home. "Life in Abaco as we know it ... Gone! Abaco is finished."
Despite warnings from the U.S. Coast Guard about the high risk of debris in the water, boat owners are sailing with aid to the Bahamas. American Airlines, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line are among the companies delivering aid to the Bahamas.
Jay Coleman, a U.S. Marine who is no longer in service, told Local 10 News reporter Louis Aguirre that he responded to the call for volunteers, because he has the training and experience. Hens Horn, a volunteer who was also on his way to the Bahamas, said he knows there is a desperate need for aid.
"They're running out of food there. They're running out of water," Horn said. "They can't get out. They can't get enough planes in. They can't get boats in. The people that are there are going to have an extremely difficult time, and they are going to need help from everybody who can chip in and do it."