‘This hour of darkness’ as Dorian toll rises in Bahamas

ABCAO, Bahamas — The hurricane death toll is rising in the Bahamas, in what its leader calls “this hour of darkness.”

Search and rescue teams were still trying to reach some Bahamian communities isolated by floodwaters and debris Saturday after Hurricane Dorian struck the northern part of the archipelago last Sunday. At least 43 people died.

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Several hundred people, many of them Haitian immigrants, waited at Abaco island’s Marsh Harbour in hopes of leaving the disaster zone on vessels arriving with aid. Bahamian security forces were organizing evacuations on a landing craft. Other boats, including yachts and other private craft, were also helping to evacuate people.

Avery Parotti, a 19-year-old bartender, and partner Stephen Chidles, a 26-year-old gas station attendant had been waiting at the port since 1 a.m. During the hurricane, waves lifted a yacht that smashed against a cement wall, which in turn collapsed on their home and destroyed it.

“There’s nothing left here. There are no jobs,” said Parotti, who hopes to start a new life in the United States, where she has relatives.

Dorval Darlier, a Haitian diplomat who had come from the Bahamian capital of Nassau, shouted in Creole, telling the crowd that sick people along with women and children should be evacuated before men.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said late Friday that 35 people were known dead on Abaco and eight on Grand Bahama island.

“We acknowledge that there are many missing and that the number of deaths is expected to significantly increase,” he said. “This is one of the stark realities we are facing in this hour of darkness.”

On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that Minnis had told him that there would have been “many more casualties” without U.S. help. Trump credited the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard and the “brave people of the Bahamas.”

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The U.S. Coast Guard said it has rescued a total of 290 people in the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian. Six MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters are carrying out search and rescue missions and providing logistical support, while nine cutters are also helping, the Coast Guard said.

The U.S. Agency for International Development on Saturday announced $1 million in additional humanitarian assistance to help Bahamians, bringing USAID’s total funding to more than $2.8 million so far.

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