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'They Swam For Their Lives.' Dorian Stories Make Clearer What Bahamas Victims Need

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Ramon Espinosa
/
AP
Rescue volunteers make their way through floodwaters on Grand Bahama island during Hurricane Dorian this week.

Stories are emerging of the two-day nightmare the Bahamas endured this week from Hurricane Dorian, which killed at least 20 people there. The reports give us a clearer view of what the storm’s survivors need most.

Like many Bahamians in South Florida this week, Mel Ross has struggled to make contact with relatives back in the Bahamas. Wednesday morning she finally got through on WhatsApp - and what she heard was worse than she'd even expected.

Ross has an uncle and cousins in Marsh Harbour on Abaco island. That’s where Dorian made landfall with wind gusts of 220 miles per hour and 20-foot-high storm surge. It wrecked her uncle’s house.

“His house got split in two," Ross said. "They swam for their life. Holding on to branches just to stay afloat. They were finally rescued. And they lost everything. It’s, it’s just, it’s horrible.”

Ross also has family on Grand Bahama island – as hard hit as Abaco. She hasn’t been able to contact them yet. But she’s hearing stories from others on Grand Bahama that make her doubly distraught.

“About this one man holding on to a branch, holding his wife and two kids," Ross said she was told, "and this piece of wood flew off the rooftop and just took that arm that he was holding on with right off.”

All of which is why Ross came to her parish, the Greater St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Coconut Grove’s “Little Bahamas” enclave, to help collect relief supplies for the Bahamas. St. Paul’s pastor, the Reverend Nathaniel Robinson, says the increasing information from folks on Abaco and Grand Bahama is a reminder that much more than food and water is needed.

“Right now I think what’s a priority is medical supplies," Robinson said. "Alcohol, gauze, peroxide. And then insect repellant - all that water from storm surge means the bugs are especially bad - and baby food, diapers. It's a long list.”

Dorian was the worst recorded hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.