People drowned in their attics as Dorian submerged whole houses

Michael McDonald and Ezra Fieser

Teams of dog handlers from the U.S., Canada and Belgium are uncovering more and more dead bodies among the debris of Bahamas homes hit by Hurricane Dorian, the Health Ministry said.

The Category 5 storm was so powerful that it drowned people who had been seeking refuge in their attics, swept others out to sea, and crushed steel-reinforced concrete structures, according to Health Minister Duane Sands.

“To imagine the combination of 200 mph winds, a 20-25 foot sea surge, torrential rain, the power out, communications out and you have, and this is no cliche, a perfect storm,” Sands said in a phone interview Wednesday.

A Bahamas coroners team carries a body out of The Mudd neighborhood in the Marsh Harbor area of Abaco Island in the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019.

Hundreds of searchers, including foreigners and local security forces, are going door to door across Abaco and Grand Bahama, the islands worst hit by Dorian’s strike last week. It could take weeks or months for them to finish their work, Sands said.

The official death toll currently stands at 50, but is likely to go much higher, he said.

Homes lay in ruins one week after Hurricane Dorian hit The Mudd neighborhood, in the Marsh Harbor area of Abaco, Bahamas, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019.

In a nation where 80% of the land is less than 32 feet (10 meters) above sea level, people were confronted by “20 feet of ocean in their backyard,” he said.

Rescue crews are evacuating families to other islands. Thousands are living in shelters.

“When I say people have lost everything, that is a fair statement, they have lost everything,” he said. “The clothes on their backs, shoes, underwear, food, water, medication.”

A toilet stands amid the rubble of what was once a home after it was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian one week ago in Pelican Point, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. The toll from the storm in the Bahamas stood at 44 Monday but officials have warned that the number of deaths is likely to rise as security forces and other teams search devastated areas of the northern Bahamas.

The main hospital on Grand Bahama, where about 50,000 lived is now shut, and most of the schools on the islands have been destroyed, Sands said.