'We need help': Rescuers in Bahamas face a blasted landscape

This aerial photo provided by Medic Corps, shows the destruction brought by Hurricane Dorian on Man-o-War Cay, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept.3, 2019. Relief officials reported scenes of utter ruin in parts of the Bahamas and rushed to deal with an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful storm on record ever to hit the islands. (Medic Corps via AP)
A family walks on a road after being rescued from the flood waters of Hurricane Dorian, near Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Tuesday Sept. 3, 2019. They were rescued by volunteers who drove a bus into the flood waters to pick them up. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Volunteers walk under the wind and rain from Hurricane Dorian through a flooded road as they work to rescue families near the Causarina bridge in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. The storm’s punishing winds and muddy brown floodwaters devastated thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and trapped people in attics. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Cars sit submerged in water from Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Dorian is beginning to inch northwestward after being stationary over the Bahamas, where its relentless winds have caused catastrophic damage and flooding.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Julia Aylen wades through waist deep water carrying her pet dog as she is rescued from her flooded home during Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Practically parking over the Bahamas for a day and a half, Dorian pounded away at the islands Tuesday in a watery onslaught that devastated thousands of homes, trapped people in attics and crippled hospitals. Julia Aylen is the daughter of Photojournalist Tim Aylen, author of this photo. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen)
Mister Bolter recovers dishes from his son's home, destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in Pine Bay, near Freeport, Bahamas, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. Rescuers trying to reach drenched and stunned victims in the Bahamas fanned out across a blasted landscape of smashed and flooded homes Wednesday, while disaster relief organizations rushed to bring in food and medicine. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Guests leave the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., after the park closed early due to weather spawned by Hurricane Dorian. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Brandon Ennis runs away from waves caused by Hurricane Dorian crashing over the jetty of the Jupiter inlet, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, in Jupiter, Fla. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
A chair is caught in a grove blown there by Hurricane Dorian's powerful winds, in Pine Bay, near Freeport, Bahamas, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. Rescuers trying to reach drenched and stunned victims in the Bahamas fanned out across a blasted landscape of smashed and flooded homes Wednesday, while disaster relief organizations rushed to bring in food and medicine. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Volunteers depart on a motor-boat to rescue people trapped by the rising waters of Hurricane Dorian, on a flooded road near the Causarina bridge in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. The storm’s punishing winds and muddy brown floodwaters devastated thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and trapped people in attics. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A family walks on a road after being rescued from the flood waters of Hurricane Dorian, near Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Tuesday Sept. 3, 2019. They were rescued by volunteers who drove a bus into the flood waters to pick them up. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Volunteers rescue several families that arrived on small boats, from the rising waters of Hurricane Dorian, near the Causarina bridge in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. The storm’s punishing winds and muddy brown floodwaters devastated thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and trapped people in attics. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Ryan Smith, 60, left, and Hiram Williams, 71, stock an auditorium with goods slated to be sent to the Bahamas at Christ Episcopal Church in Miami, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. South Florida residents spared from Hurricane Dorian’s wrath are donating relief supplies to relatives in the Bahamas. Droves of Floridians turned out Tuesday to share cans of food, water bottles and boxes of diapers. (AP Photo/Ellis Rua)
Eddie Wright, 68, and his dog Vino wait on one of the final buses at Lanier Plaza in Brunswick, Ga., to evacuate from Hurricane Dorian. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
A man talks on his mobile phone next to a catamaran that was thrown onshore by the Hurricane Dorian near highway close Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Tuesday Sept. 3, 2019. Relief officials reported scenes of utter ruin in parts of the Bahamas and rushed to deal with an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful storm on record ever to hit the islands. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A woman who was trapped by flood waters during Hurricane Dorian is transported out of the area by volunteers on a jet ski near the Causarina bridge in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. The storm’s punishing winds and muddy brown floodwaters devastated thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and trapped people in attics. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

FREEPORT, Bahamas — Rescue crews in the Bahamas fanned out across a blasted landscape of smashed and flooded homes Wednesday, trying to reach drenched and stunned victims of Hurricane Dorian and take the full measure of the disaster. The official death toll stood at seven but was certain to rise.

A day after the most powerful hurricane on record ever to hit the country finished mauling the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, emergency workers had yet to reach some stricken areas.

"Right now there are just a lot of unknowns," Parliament member Iram Lewis said. "We need help."

Dorian, meanwhile, pushed its way northward off the Florida shoreline with reduced but still-dangerous 105 mph (165 kph) winds on a projected course that could sideswipe Georgia and the Carolinas. An estimated 3 million people in the four states were warned to clear out, and highways leading inland were turned into one-way evacuation routes.

The storm parked over the Bahamas and pounded it for over a day and a half with winds up to 185 mph (295 kph) and torrential rains, swamping neighborhoods in muddy brown floodwaters and destroying or severely damaging thousands of homes.

"We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country's history," said Prime Minister Hubert Minnis. He said he expects the number of dead to rise.

National Security Minister Marvin Dames said rescue teams were fanning out as the winds and rain subsided, with more than 600 police officers and marines in Grand Bahama and 100 in Abaco.

"The devastation is unlike anything that we've ever seen before," he said. "We're beginning to get on the ground, get our people in the right places. We have a lot of work in the days and weeks and months ahead."

Rescuers used jet skis, boats and even a bulldozer to reach children and adults trapped by the swirling waters, while the U.S. Coast Guard, Britain's Royal Navy and disaster relief organizations tried to get food and medicine to survivors and take the most desperate people to safety.

Five Coast Guard helicopters ran near-hourly flights to stricken Abaco, flying people to the main hospital in the capital, Nassau.

Health Minister Duane Sands said the government was airlifting 25 doctors, nurses and other health workers to Abaco and hoped to bring in mental health workers soon.

"The situation is under control in Abaco," he said. "In Grand Bahama, today will tell the magnitude of the problem."

Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, with a combined population of about 70,000, are known for their marinas, golf courses and all-inclusive resorts.

Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane said Tuesday that more than 13,000 houses, or about 45% of the homes on Grand Bahama and Abaco, were believed to be severely damaged or destroyed. U.N. and Red Cross officials said tens of thousands of people will need food and clean drinking water.

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

She said her representative on Abaco told her there were "a lot more dead."

At 11 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Dorian was centered about 90 miles (140 kilometers) northeast of Daytona Beach, Florida, moving northwest at 9 mph (15 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended up to 70 miles (110 kilometers) from its center.

Dorian was expected to pass dangerously close to Georgia and perhaps strike South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday and Friday with the potential for over a foot of rain in some spots. Forecasters warned that Dorian is likely to cause storm surge and flooding even if its core does not blow ashore.

"Don't tough it out. Get out," said U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency official Carlos Castillo.

With the threat to Florida easing and the danger shifting northward, Orlando's airport moved to reopen, along with Walt Disney World and Universal. To the north, the Navy ordered ships at its huge base in Norfolk, Virginia, to head out to sea for safety, and warplanes at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, were being moved inland to Ohio.

Having seen storms swamp his home on the Georgia coast in 2016 and 2017, Joey Spalding of Tybee Island decided to empty his house and stay at a friend's apartment nearby rather than take any chances with Dorian.

He packed a U-Haul truck with tables, chairs, a chest of drawers, tools — virtually all of his furnishings except for his mattress and a large TV — and planned to park it on higher ground. He also planned to shroud his house in plastic wrap up to shoulder height and pile sandbags in front of the doors.

"In this case, I don't have to come into a house full of junk," he said. "I'm learning a little as I go."

___

Associated Press journalist Ramon Espinosa reported this story in Freeport, AP writer Danica Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and AP writer Michael Weissenstein reported from Nassau, Bahamas. AP writers Tim Aylen in Freeport, Russ Bynum in Georgia and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

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