The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued more than 300 people from in the Bahamas — with a special focus on finding survivors in remote, cut-off areas — since Category 5 Hurricane Dorian tore through the islands early this week.
As of Sunday, five MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters, operating out of Andros Island, are conducting search-and-rescue missions and area assessments as well as providing logistical support to Bahamian authorities, the USCG said. Five cutters are also providing hurricane assistance in the Bahamas.
The current number of people rescued by the USCG is 308, along with several pets. Crews are also delivering much-needed supplies, such as bottled water, to the hardest-hit areas.
The Coast Guard warned mariners against against traveling to the northern Bahamas until further notice. “The Government of the Bahamas is currently assessing its northern ports and harbors to determine if they are safe to enter,” said a USCG advisory last week. “There is a high risk of debris in the water, sunken vessels, and destroyed or missing aids to navigation and pier facilities. There is also a risk of chemical spills and changes to the topography/hydrology in ports and marinas from the prolonged winds and storm surge of the Category 5 hurricane.”
As of Sunday, all ports have been reopened.
The official Bahamian government death toll is 44, but officials have warned the fatality count is expected to be much higher as thousands remain missing.
“I’ve pre-warned the Bahamian populace and the world that we expect that to increase. The island is quite extensive, long, and it’s quite a vast area to cover, and with the assistance of the search-and-rescue team that will accelerate the process in discovering if there are extra bodies,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told CNN on Thursday night.
Minnis said the government airline would be flying residents from the hardest-hit islands to Nassau for free.
“I must say, from day one, United States was in our territory assisting us with all of our needs; had it not been for the United States we would not have been advanced this far in the entire process,” he said. “And I’m sure that even though our death numbers we expect to increase, the United States now comes in quickly, aggressively and assists us with the situation. Death numbers would be even more than what would be the final count.”
Capt. Joseph McGilley, Air Station Clearwater commanding officer, welcomed home today the first Coast Guard air crew deployed in support of Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas. The crew was involved in numerous rescues and medical evacuations.
This story was updated Sept. 8 with the latest rescue and deployment numbers