Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas with ferocious wind and rain on Sunday, the monstrous Category 5 storm wrecking towns and homes as it churned on an uncertain path toward the US coast where hundreds of thousands were ordered to evacuate.
There was no immediate word on casualties in the low-lying islands.
But the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) called the storm’s impact “catastrophic”. It said as many as 13,000 houses may have been severely damaged or destroyed.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said yesterday that reported “devastation is unprecedented” following the passage of Hurricane Dorian.
Packing sustained winds of 165 miles per hour (270 kph) with a towering 18 to 23 foot (5 to 7 metre) storm surge, Dorian crashed over the Abacos Islands, in the northwest Bahamas, as the strongest storm ever to hit the Caribbean chain.
It was tied for the second most powerful hurricane ever in the Atlantic basin, the US National Weather Service said -- with footage on social media showing major destruction from howling gusts of wind and pounding seawater.
Video posted on the website of the Bahamian newspaper Tribune 242 showed water up to the roofs of wooden houses in what appeared to be a coastal town. Capsized boats floated in muddy brown water dotted with wooden boards, tree branches and other debris.
After days of nerve-wracking uncertainty surrounding the storm’s path, the southeastern US states of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina finally ordered hundreds of thousands of coastal residents to evacuate.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the storm will be “dangerously close” to the Florida coast today.
On Sunday night, the eastern part of Grand Bahama was experiencing the eye wall of the storm. The NHC said the situation on that island was life-threatening and would only worsen overnight.