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'Decimated. Apocalyptic': Dorian Death Toll Rises to 20 in Bahamas, Storm Marches Up East Coast

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The first tragic views are emerging of the devastation Hurricane Dorian unleashed on the Bahamas. It killed at least 20 people, but that death toll is expected to rise because the storm has finally moved on and officials can start to assess what happened there. Now the eastern US is bracing for this still dangerous storm.

The scene after Dorian's brutal attack on the Bahamas is stunning...debris that was once people's homes, now covering the island with wreckage.

"It's total devastation. It's decimated. Apocalyptic," said Lia Head-Rigby, who helps run a local hurricane relief group and flew over the Bahamas' hard-hit Abaco Islands. "It's not rebuilding something that was there; we have to start again."

Hitting as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds up to 185 mph and wind gusts over 200 miles an hour, Dorian was the most powerful storm in recorded history here, targeting the Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands, known for their marinas, golf courses and all-inclusive resorts.

CBN's Operation Blessing US Disaster Team has deployed to the Bahamas and the southeastern US to help with Dorian aftermath. Click Here to Help Operation Blessing Provide Relief to Victims of Disaster.

Even worse, Dorian stalled over these islands, and their 70,000 residents, for two days. A Red Cross spokesman says more than 13,000 houses were believed to be severely damaged or destroyed. That's nearly half of the homes Grand Bahama and Abaco.

Survivor Dert Duport says, "Well going through it was terrifying and we're happy to be alive, glad that my family is safe."

Rescuers report seeing bodies floating in the water, and the final death toll won't be known for days.

The US Coast Guard is helping lead search and rescue, but there are still areas that first responders can't reach.

Volunteers rescue several families from the rising waters of Hurricane Dorian, near the Causarina bridge in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (AP Photo)

People are using boats, even jet skis, to try and reach those who have lost everything.
A humanitarian crisis is emerging in the Bahamas. The main hospital on Grand Bahama is unusable. Homes are destroyed and more than 60,000 people need food and clean drinking water.
And Dorian's not done.

It's now a Category 2 storm, but with winds at 110 miles an hour, it's wider than it was before and is still considered dangerous.

Authorities have asked two million people in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas to evacuate.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says, "This is a very serious storm and a western shift that is towards land of just a few miles could bring enormous damage."

Even if Dorian doesn't make landfall in the US, it could bring storm surge and severe flooding.

In low-lying Charleston, South Carolina, authorities are racing to move hospital patients to higher ground.  

In Savannah, Georgia, they have provided buses for families to get out.

In Florida, Dorian has already grounded thousands of flights and shut down several airports. And it's battering Florida's coast as it makes it way north.

By Thursday or Friday, Dorian could make a direct hit on North Carolina.

DeepWater Church members and Isle of Palms, SC, residents pray on Sept. 3, 2019, for the Bahamas and for the hurricane to spin harmlessly out to sea. (AP Photo by Mic Smith)

CBN News has been in Daytona Beach, Florida where Dorian was initially expected to do serious damage. Some minor tropical weather finally arrived Wednesday after a week of waiting.

"One minute I’m all nervous and scared that everything’s gonna blow away and then it's tracking off in another direction and then it stops, this one's been really unpredictable," said beachgoer Todd Molnar.

Resident Hillaire Sartain gave us an interesting comparison to describe Dorian saying it's like "being stalked by a slow-moving turtle". 

Perhaps the excitement has waned, but officials say vigilance cannot. Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Judge says, "Things can change for the better but of course we know they can change for the worst."

And some of the worst has come out during this emergency. Officials say an elderly woman and a blind man have both been bilked out of their money by scammers. 

Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood says, "You gotta be a real scum bag if you’re gonna attack people who are blind and people who are extremely elderly and show up and scam them out of tens of thousands of dollars."

One of the many reasons why people here say they’ll be glad when this is all over. 

CBN's Operation Blessing US Disaster Team has deployed to the Bahamas and the southeastern US to help with Dorian aftermath. Click Here to Help Operation Blessing Provide Relief to Victims of Disaster.

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About The Author


Heather Sells covers wide-ranging stories for CBN News that include religious liberty, ministry trends, immigration, and education. She’s known for telling personal stories that capture the issues of the day, from the border sheriff who rescues migrants in the desert to the parents struggling with a child that identifies as transgender. In the last year, she has reported on immigration at the Texas border, from Washington, D.C., in advance of the Dobbs abortion case, at crisis pregnancy centers in Massachusetts, and on sexual abuse reform at the annual Southern Baptist meeting in Anaheim