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Five dead as Hurricane Dorian triggers massive flooding across Bahamas

The Category 4 storm slowed almost to a standstill as it shredded roofs, hurled cars and forced even rescue crews to take shelter.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)
(Tim Aylen/AP)

By Ramon Espinosa and Danica Coto, Associated Press

Hurricane Dorian has unleashed massive flooding across the Bahamas, killing at least five people.

Prime minister Hubert Minnis said at least five died in the Abaco Islands and there are people in nearby Great Bahama island who are in serious distress.

He said rescue crews will respond to calls for help as soon as weather conditions allow, adding: “We are in the midst of a historic tragedy.”

The Category 4 storm slowed almost to a standstill as it shredded roofs, hurled cars and forced even rescue crews to take shelter until the onslaught passed.

Officials said they received a “tremendous” number of calls from people in flooded homes. Forecasters warned that Dorian could generate a storm surge as high as 23ft.

Police Chief Samuel Butler urged people to remain calm and share their GPS co-ordinates, but said rescue crews had to wait until weather conditions improved.

By Monday afternoon, the storm’s top sustained winds had fallen to 145mph.

On Sunday, Dorian churned over the Abaco Islands with battering winds and surf and heavy flooding.

Parliament member Darren Henfield described the damage as “catastrophic” and said officials did not have information on what happened in nearby cays. “We are in search-and-recovery mode. Continue to pray for us.”

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(PA Graphics)

A spokesman for Bahamas Power and Light said there was a blackout in New Providence, the archipelago’s most populous island. He said the company’s office on Abaco Ssland was flattened.

Spokesman Quincy Parker said: “The reports out of Abaco, as everyone knows, were not good.”

Most people went to shelters as the storm neared. Tourist hotels shut down, and residents boarded up their homes. Many people were expected to be left homeless.

On Sunday, Dorian’s maximum sustained winds reached 185mph, with gusts up to 220mph, tying the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane to make landfall.

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(PA Graphics)

That equalled the Labour Day hurricane of 1935, before storms were named. The only recorded storm that was more powerful was Hurricane Allen in 1980, with 190mph winds, although it did not make landfall at that strength.

Bahamas homes are required to have metal reinforcements for roof beams to withstand winds into the upper limits of a Category 4 hurricane, and compliance is generally tight for those who can afford it.

Risks are higher in poorer neighbourhoods that have wooden homes in low-lying areas.

Forecasters said Dorian is likely to begin pulling away from the Bahamas early on Tuesday to curve to the north east parallel to the south-eastern coast of the US.

The system is expected to spin 40 to 50 miles off Florida with hurricane-force wind speeds extending about 35 miles to the west.

PA

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