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Hurricane Dorian Causes Widespread Destruction In The Bahamas


Hurricane Dorian is finally moving away from the Bahamas, but it has left absolute devastation behind. There are some areas that first responders can't even get into yet to look for survivors.

Krystel Brown is a reporter for The Nassau Guardian. And, Krystel, I know you must be really busy. Thanks for taking the time.

KRYSTEL BROWN: Good morning. No problem.

KING: You're in Nassau, which didn't get hit terribly hard by Hurricane Dorian, but you're talking to people in Abaco and Grand Bahama. What are you hearing?

BROWN: Well, Noel, I can tell you that the most heartbreaking story that I've heard so far came from a father. Yesterday, we met him in the hospital. He had been airlifted to New Providence on Monday. And he told us about a terrifying 24 hours that he spent outside weathering the catastrophic conditions with his son on his back as he treaded water. As you know, storm surge got up to 20 feet. And so he had to break into several homes to try and seek shelter for himself and his family.

And he got separated from his wife and her child. But as he was with his 5-year-old son, he put his son on the top of a roof of a home. And about a minute later, as he was trying to get up on that same roof, a storm surge knocked his son on the other side of the house into the murky waters below. And he's never seen his son again since.

KING: Oh, my gosh.

BROWN: He spent about - he spent hours searching for his son. His leg was pierced by some debris, so he was bleeding. He also reported seeing sharks in the water. After he became so tired, he had to seek higher ground so that he could also attempt to look from above to see if he could locate his son. When he got up to the higher ground, he couldn't walk because he didn't realize at the time that he had broken his leg. So he crawled on his belly towards a church.

When he got to that church, he met, like, eight to 12 people. And he said he noticed that the wall of the church was swaying back-and-forth as if it were clothes on a line. And maybe about a minute later, that wall fell on that eight to 12 people, crushing them. He doesn't know if any of them are alive. But he had to crawl away from the church because he was so scared. Then he spent another maybe eight hours outside before he was rescued. And he was eventually airlifted to New Providence.

So we've been hearing really sad stories like that. It's really been a very emotional time for Bahamians. And so many of us are just - the most we can do right now is pray, send aid. But what's happening now - the focus is really on rescue and recovery. We still believe that there are many people who need help.

KING: Well, what a terrible story, and what a terrible tragedy for that family. There are reports on social media that several thousand people like that man's son have been reported missing in the Bahamas. What is the effort like to find them?

BROWN: Well, we have people going out on jet skis, on boats, people just walking. The minister of health told us they have to go door to door because we just don't know how many people may still be trapped in their homes. So it's a really extensive effort. It's - a lot of people are involved.

KING: This man that you spoke to in the hospital - you said he was airlifted out. Is that the way that most people are getting out of places like Abaco and Grand Bahama right now? Are they relying on flights?

BROWN: Well, helicopters because it's very hard to land a plane because the airstrip is still underwater. So the U.S. Coast Guard and a lot of private helicopter owners have been helping us out a lot.

KING: I want to ask you, the United States has started lifting - airlifting supplies out of Miami into the Bahamas. Are food and water getting to people?

BROWN: Food and water are getting to people. But you - we also have to keep in mind that there are - a lot of roads are impassable and a lot of communities that are blocked off. Like, we spoke to one lady on the outskirts of Abaco, and she's telling me that she's blocked off. She said there's no way for her to get to Marsh Harbour because there's so much debris in the road.

So while we do know for sure that a lot of people are receiving food and water, we still think that there are a lot of communities that are cut off that may not be receiving the help that they really need.

KING: What else are people saying that they need? I imagine that shelter is a very big concern at this point.

BROWN: Shelter is a very big concern. We have hundreds of people in one shelter that's not meant for so many people. So there's just people on top of people. That's the best way to explain it.

So right now, the efforts are centered around getting those people out of shelters, maybe into different islands where they may have family and friends. And, of course, we've opened up the shelters on New Providence. And we've also been bringing a lot of people here.

KING: Is the government of the Bahamas doing a good job at keeping people updated, apprised of what's going on?

BROWN: I think the government is doing its best. And the prime minister is committed to addressing the nation on a nightly basis. So we look to him every day to kind of give us some indication on what's happening on the ground. We're going to get two teams in today, finally. We've been having a bit of trouble trying to get some crews in ourselves because of the limited flights. You know, a lot of people are going out, but they only have capacity for relief items. And then when they're on their way back, they're bringing in evacuees.

So we were finally able to secure some flights for our news team today. We'll be on the ground with extra cellphones. We're also going to take some supplies in ourselves. And we hope to bring some more stories, like the one I shared with you earlier, to our reading and doing and listening public.

KING: Well, we certainly appreciate you bringing us these stories. Krystel Brown of The Nassau Guardian, thank you so much for your time.

BROWN: No problem. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.