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Death Toll In The Bahamas Expected To Rise As Rescue Crews Reach Areas Hit By Dorian


After days stalled over the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian has begun a slow crawl up the Eastern Seaboard. Rain from its outermost bands have begun lashing low-lying coastal cities such as Charleston, S.C. This lumbering monster of a storm is hitting the U.S. after grinding its way across the Grand Bahamas and the Abaco Islands, leaving behind a trail of destruction. NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. He's actually at the Nassau airport.

Hey there, Jason.


KELLY: Hi. What's the scene at the airport? Are flights getting in and out?

BEAUBIEN: Flights are getting in and out of here. And this has really become sort of the relief hub. You've got helicopters from U.S. Coast Guard, actually from many different agencies, coming in out of here. You've got supply planes coming in and delivering supplies. So this has really become, like, the main hub for the relief effort for the people that have been effected here by Dorian.

KELLY: Right. And in terms of the places they're trying to get, some of those very hard hit places like the Abaco Islands that I mentioned, what are they finding when they get there?

BEAUBIEN: They're finding incredible devastation. I mean, these places got hit with gusts of 220 miles per hour at Marsh Harbour, and then Dorian just parked over Grand Bahama for almost two days. I mean, the scenes of destruction in some places are just almost total. They're saying that some communities, some poor neighborhoods, have been just completely destroyed. You know, we're hearing from people that there are boats thrown all over the place. And really, at this point, they're just trying to figure out how to get in there and operate because the airports are underwater and even, like, the ports. They thought, OK, we'll send stuff in by boat, but most of the ports are destroyed. So the level of destruction is really pretty amazing.

KELLY: Right. It's all well and good to send a boat, but if the boat can't dock and actually get the supplies loaded off onto land, it's not doing much good. Tell me just, is there a particular story of somebody you've been able to interview that's going to stick with you?

BEAUBIEN: I mean, a lot of them stick with me. You know, I just talked to a guy who just got evacuated out of Marsh Harbour on a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter. His name's Javon Cambridge (ph). He's 33. He came out with five other people (unintelligible) son. He says that people in Marsh Harbour are really getting desperate.

JAVON CAMBRIDGE: Eventually, I feel like there's going to be some real chaos of people trying to survive. They're already raiding the stores, so yeah...

BEAUBIEN: What about water? Where are people...

CAMBRIDGE: There's no water. They're collecting rainwater. And they're flushing their toilets with water from off the road.

BEAUBIEN: And he says that people can't survive for that much longer there unless supplies actually get in.

KELLY: We'll stay with that question of supplies. We heard him mention water, that there's no water. I will mention that your line is fading in and out, which tells me that phone communications are still not entirely up and reliable, even in Nassau, the capital, certainly not in other places. What else is just the greatest challenge in terms of supplies, in terms of what people need right now?

BEAUBIEN: You know, so even here at the airport, they are flying people out and just immediately loading them onto ambulances. So medical care is a huge issue. I mean, obviously, there were people there that were in, you know, assisted living or that were people who are in hospital. And those people still need attention. And so they're flying those people out. People need a roof to sleep under. If you'd look at some of these images, you know, entire swaths of Marsh Harbour have been destroyed. And the prime minister said yesterday I think 60% of buildings in Marsh Harbour have been damaged or destroyed.

KELLY: Jason, thank you.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

KELLY: That is NPR's Jason Beaubien reporting on the scenes of destruction and devastation. He was reporting there from Nassau in the Bahamas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.