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Hurricane Dorian: Who’s at risk?

Abaco islands

Hurricane Dorian poses a threat to US eastern coastal states after leaving a trail of destruction across the Bahamas.


The slow-moving hurricane was the most powerful storm to hit the Bahamas since records began, bringing sustained winds of up to 185mph (298km/h) at its peak, storm surges and flooding.


After being downgraded from the highest, category five level, to category two, the storm has again gathered strength. Officials say Dorian is now a category three hurricane producing sustained winds of 115mph (185km/h) and the possibility of life-threatening storm surges.


At least 20 people died as a result of the storm in the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, in the north of the Bahamas archipelago, and numbers are expected to rise.


In the US, residents from Georgia to Virginia have been warned to listen to emergency announcements as Dorian slowly moves north.


Where’s been hit?


Dorian made landfall on Sunday (1 Sept), battering the islands. Its slow progress across the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama on Monday and Tuesday intensified the extent of the damage.


High winds, heavy rain and flooding seawater have decimated some areas.


Bahamas Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said the devastation in the Abaco Islands’ Marsh Harbour was “beyond what anyone can imagine”.


“Many of the homes have been totally destroyed and so we’re going to certainly need, as a government, and a people, a massive rebuilding strategy, a plan, after after all of this. It’s very sad.”

– Destruction of the Abaco Islands


The total number of casualties is not clear as the emergency services have yet to reach some areas – but Bahamas’ PM Hubert Minnis said he expected the number of dead to increase.


Seventeen are reported to have been killed in the Abacos and three in Grand Bahama.

As rescue and relief operations get under way, the United Nations has said that 70,000 people in the Bahamas are in need of aid.


The International Red Cross fears nearly half of homes on Grand Bahama and the Abacos – around 13,000 properties – have been severely damaged or destroyed.

Survivor Ramond King, from Marsh Harbour, said everything was gone.


“Yes, I did witness the storm, I was in the front room and I watched a tornado carry my roof,” he told Reuters. “I was just there, like: This can’t be real, this can’t be real.”


Many people in Grand Bahama were forced to flee to the roofs of their homes to escape the rising flood waters, which covered most of the island at one stage. Floods levels are now said to be receding.


PM Minnis said while there was widespread destruction, “what was most significant, those homes that were built on stilts were not damaged”.


Storm surges could be devastating


As well as dangerous wind speeds, authorities have issued warnings of life-threatening storm surgesalong the whole length of the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.


Storm surges are caused when huge volumes of water are pushed by hurricane-force winds. When they meet land, the water surges inshore at levels far exceeding normal tides.


Where is it heading?


From The Bahamas, the storm edged northwards to the east of Florida and by 06:00 GMT on Thursday was about 170km (105 miles) south-east of Charleston in South Carolina and moving north at about 11km/h (7mph). It is expected to turn north-eastwards and speed up.


The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says the centre of Dorian could move near or over the South Carolina coast later on Thursday.


But even without making landfall in the US, hurricane-force winds extend out up to 60 miles (95 km) from the centre and could still blast the coastal states.


The NHC says the Carolinas could be hit with a storm surge of up to seven feet (2.1m) and six to 12 inches of rain.


More than 2.2 million people in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate.


“Time to get out is running out,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster told a news conference.


The Red Cross says more than 12,000 people spent Tuesday night in their evacuation centres.


Dorian’s strength


At category five, Dorian was the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, with some gusts reaching 200mph (321km/h). It is the fifth Atlantic hurricane to reach the highest category in the last four years.


Hurricane Irma in 2017 was also category five and caused widespread damage across the Leeward Islands, Caribbean and Florida keys, damaging roads, buildings, airports and harbours.


Grand Bahama was also hit by category five Hurricane Matthew in 2016 – many residents had yet to fully rebuild their houses before Dorian’s arrival.


Original story from BBC


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