ABACO, Bahamas (AP) — Carrying their meager possessions in duffel bags and shopping carts, hundreds of desperate people gathered at the port in Grand Abaco on Friday in hopes of getting off the hurricane-devastated island, as an international disaster-relief effort took shape.
The search for victims and survivors continued, five days after Dorian blasted the Bahamas with 185 mph (295 kph) winds that obliterated countless homes. Officials said 30 people have been confirmed dead, but the toll is sure to rise.
At the port, some of those who lined up behind a yellow cloth tape arrived as early as 1 a.m., hoping for transportation to the capital, Nassau.
“It’s going to get crazy soon,” said Serge Simon, 39, who drives an ice truck and waited with his wife and two sons, 5 months old and 4. “There’s no food, no water. There are bodies in the water. People are going to start getting sick.”
There were no government-organized evacuations yet, but the Royal Bahamas Defense Force helped people board a 139-foot (42-meter) ferry that had come to pick up its employees and had room for an additional 160 people.
The crowd waited calmly as marines separated women and children to allow them to board first, followed by the men.
“Our sense is people want to get off Abaco,” said the ship’s commanding officer, Senior Lt. William Sturrup.
A British navy ship moored offshore sent in aid on a landing craft, including blankets and 500 boxes of ration packs that feed a family of four. Two private yachts also brought in aid, including pallets of water bottles.
Sturrup said that the navy ship would return later with more aid, and that a 210-foot (64-meter) landing craft of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force would come in the afternoon with trucks and supplies.
Another crowd of a few hundred gathered on Thursday at a small airport, hoping to catch a ride aboard the small planes that were picking up the most vulnerable survivors, including the sick and the elderly.
The evacuation was slow, and there was frustration for some who said they had nowhere to go after the Category 5 hurricane splintered whole neighborhoods.
“They told us that the babies, the pregnant people and the elderly people were supposed to be first preference,” said Lukya Thompson, a 23-year-old bartender. But many were still waiting, she said.
SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER:
Meanwhile, on hard-hit Grand Bahama Island, a long line formed at a cruise ship that had docked to distribute food and water. Among those waiting was Wellisy Taylor, a 65-year-old housewife.
“What we have to do as Bahamians, we have to band together. If your brother needs sugar, you’re going to have to give him sugar. If you need cream, they’ll have to give you cream,” she said. “That’s how I grew up. That’s the Bahamas that I know.”
The Bahamian Health Ministry said helicopters and boats were on the way to help people, though officials warned of delays because of severe flooding.
An array of organizations and companies, including the United Nations, Royal Caribbean and American Airlines, mobilized to send in food, water, generators, diapers, flashlights and other relief supplies.
Some dazed survivors of the storm on Thursday made their way back to a shantytown where they used to live, hoping to gather up some of their soggy belongings.
The community was known as The Mudd — or “Da Mudd,” as it’s often pronounced — and it was built by thousands of Haitian migrants over decades. It was razed in a matter of hours by Dorian, leaving piles of splintered plywood and two-by-fours 4 and 5 feet deep, spread over an area equal to several football fields.
A helicopter buzzed overhead as people picked through the debris, avoiding a body that lay tangled underneath a tree branch next to twisted sheets of corrugated metal, its hands stretched toward the sky. It was one of at least nine bodies that people said they had seen in the area.
“Ain’t nobody come to get them,” said Cardot Ked, a 43-year-old carpenter from Haiti who has lived 25 years in Abaco. “If we could get to the next island, that’s the best thing we can do.”