An eight-year-old boy has become the first victim of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, where winds of up to 200mph are ripping roofs from homes, overturning cars and tearing down power lines.
The storm has caused devastation over the northern Bahamas, with more than 13,000 homes destroyed or damaged, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Ingrid Mcintosh told Eyewitness News that her grandson Lachino Mcintosh had drowned in the Abaco Islands, in the northern Bahamas. His sister is also understood to be missing.
“My granddaughter called my daughter from Abaco and she said my daughter said her son, my grandson, dead,” she said.
Asked by the reporter if she knew how he had died, she replied: “They said he drowned.”
She said she had just seen him “two days ago”, adding: “He told me he loved me”.
The Abaco Islands have seen storm surges of 18-23ft (5.5-7m). Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said that in some parts, “you cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street versus where the ocean begins”.
Residents in the Caribbean islands are being warned of “catastrophic” flooding from the storm, which is later expected to head towards the US.
Parts of Georgia and South Carolina are being evacuated in preparation, with forecasters warning Florida is also at risk.
Dorian, a category five hurricane, has maximum sustained winds of 185mph and gusts up to 220mph, making it one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever. The National Hurricane Centre has described the storm as “life-threatening”.
Footage has emerged showing families trapped in battered homes, surrounded by raging floodwater and strong winds.
“Please pray for us. My baby’s only four months old,” a woman in tears said in a clip posted on Facebook. “The apartment building we stay in, the whole roof came off.
“We’re stuck right here… I can’t swim.”
Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, said the scene was “devastating”, adding: “There has been huge damage to property and infrastructure. Luckily, no loss of life reported.”
Samuel Butler, assistant police commissioner, had warned residents as the hurricane approached: “The end could be fatal.
“We ask you, we beg you, we plead with you to get to a place of safety.”
Silbert Mills, owner of the Bahamas Christian Network, said: “The winds are howling like we’ve never, ever experienced before”.
Dorian is moving west at just 6mph but its path is hard to predict as winds are expected to grow.
The Georgia order for evacuation covers roughly 540,000 people in six communities on the state’s 100-mile coast, while in South Carolina, around 830,000 people in eight coastal communities are affected.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said: “We can’t make everybody happy, but we believe we can keep everyone alive.”
Earlier, people living in vulnerable parts of Florida’s coast were also told to flee their homes.
At about 9am UK time, the hurricane was about 125 miles from the Florida coast, where residents said they were already experiencing strong winds and high waves.
Evacuations ordered in Florida included 14,000 people in St. Augustine, while the flight tracking site FlightAware listed 990 cancellations into or out of airports in Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach.
“The hurricane will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday night,” the National Hurricane Centre said.
It said even the slightest impact could bring torrential rains and damaging winds.
Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis has warned the state’s residents not to be complacent, saying: “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
He said some forecasts showed Dorian coming close to – or even hitting – the Florida peninsula.
“That could produce life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds,” he said.
National Hurricane Centre director Ken Graham also urged residents not to take any risks.
“We keep nudging (Dorian’s track) a little bit to the left,” which is closer to the Florida coast, he said.
Britain sends team of specialists to Bahamas
An initial team of three experts will assess what help is needed to cope with Hurricane Dorian, with a support ship also on standby to assist.
The advisers are due to arrive in the capital Nassau this afternoon, as the storm batters the archipelago.
One of the individuals is an expert in humanitarian assistance. The other two are also specialists in emergency responses from the Department for International Development (DfID).
They will advise the British government on the assistance it could offer the Caribbean state – a member of the Commonwealth – as it is pummelled by the second-strongest Atlantic storm on record.
RFA Mounts Bay, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship, is due to be off the Bahamas later today, ready to help if required.
The support ship “has been in the region since June in preparation for the hurricane season”, the Ministry of Defence said in a post on Twitter.
“She is equipped with specialist personnel, stores and transport as well as a Wildcat helicopter.”
Mounts Bay is loaded with a digger as well as a team of Royal Marines.
The ship’s Twitter feed on Sunday said it was “making best speed for the Bahamas to standby to provide assistance for Hurricane #Dorian”.
The small team is an initial deployment on top of DfID and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials permanently based in the Caribbean. A larger response from London could be dispatched if required.
International Development Secretary Alok Sharma said: “My thoughts are with everyone affected by this devastating hurricane which is causing widespread disruption.
“I have sent an initial team of experts to the Bahamas to help assess the damage and coordinate the UK’s response, including any potential use of military assets if required.
“The UK is a world leader in providing disaster relief, and it’s right that we support the people of the Bahamas in their time of need.”
Source: SKY NEWS