GRAND BAHAMA, Bahamas – With the death toll rising to 30 across the islands of Grand Bahama and the Abacos, relief efforts continued Friday as a Florida cruise ship arrived with tons of supplies and authorities worked feverishly to find bodies, reach obliterated neighborhoods and treat victims of Hurricane Dorian.
The situation on the ground remained dire.
In the Abacos, hundreds of injured people were waiting to be airlifted. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, in a tweet Friday, urged the federal government to get “resources approved immediately” to help Abaco.
“Abaco is impossible to supply right now rendering it increasingly uninhabitable for the approximately 2000 people on the ground,” Rubio wrote in a series of tweets Friday as he toured the disaster zone via U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.
Rubio toured the affected islands alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Rubio also wrote that industrial fuel tanks in Grand Bahama Island had flooded, causing oil to spill into the sea. U.S. government hazmat teams were arriving soon, but the spills had been contained, he wrote.
Also, the main hospital in Grand Bahama was “increasingly desperate” for supplies, he wrote.
At the Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama’s capital, Freeport, four people were waiting to be transferred to Nassau for medical care – anyone needing surgeries needed to leave the island. The facility was holding the body of one victim, an unidentified man.
Coast Guard helicopters touched down throughout the morning, delivering medical supplies and an IV pump. An officer ran inside the lobby and asked hospital administrator Sharon Williams if she had any room for patients.
“All of our patient rooms were flooded,” Williams said. “We had to close the hospital, except for 10 beds that are fully occupied.”
Government officials and relief workers had yet to reach the Back-of-Town neighborhood, where some of the homes were still standing but are unlivable. Front yards are piled high with water-soaked furniture, clothes and mattresses.
Residents desperately need food, water and generators.
“No one has come to talk or say anything,” said one resident, Roger Moxey, 47. “We need some kind of relief.”
Also in Freeport, about 200 Bahamians who had been overseas when Dorian hit returned home aboard the Grand Celebration, part of Palm Beach-based Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines. The ship also transported 300 volunteers and first responders, and about 200 tons of water, food and other supplies.
“We all feel the pain,” said the cruise line’s CEO, Oniel Khosa. “We couldn’t just sit around.”
The arrival of the ship sparked long lines as authorities checked passports for returning Bahamians like Dwight Hanna, 46, who had been in Orlando for vacation when Hurricane Dorian hit.
“It looks like a bulldozer went through my town. I think I’ll feel lost,” Hanna said. “Everything’s normal here. But I know that as soon as we drive up half a mile inland ... I just know my heart will drop.”
As Hanna left the ship, others waited in line to board the Grand Celebration for its return to South Florida.
That included 24-year-old Anissa Smith, who has a visa to travel to the United States, and her niece, 8-month-old Kiara Smith, who is an American citizen and whose parents live in Orlando. Anissa and Kiara had been in the Bahamas visiting Anissa’s mother, Donalee Smith, 61, a seamstress.
The matriarch’s home survived largely intact. The family has plenty of food and water. But the lack of air conditioning would make life miserable for the infant.
“I ain’t leaving home. I love home,” Donalee Smith said. “But I worry about the baby. Best she go back to her daddy.”