About 2,500 people have been reported missing in the Bahamas in the days since Hurricane Dorian left behind widespread destruction, government officials said Wednesday.
The islands are still sorting through the damage left by the storm, which struck parts of the Bahamas with Category 5 winds for more than a day and a half as the hurricane stalled. Thousands of homes were destroyed on the Abacos Islands, and 50 people have been reported dead, but that toll is expected to rise as authorities comb through the wreckage and recover more bodies.
“No living Bahamian has ever seen anything like this in their lifetime,” the Bahamian prime minister, Hubert Minnis, said Wednesday, according to The New York Times. “But as horrible and vicious as Hurricane Dorian was, the bravery and resilience of the Bahamian people is even more powerful.”
The Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency wrote on Facebook that more than 2,500 people were unaccounted for, but officials stressed that names on that list have not yet been checked against official lists of people currently in shelters or those who were evacuated. About 4,000 people have left the Bahamas and entered the United States, immigration authorities told the Times.
But Minnis said that the number of deaths was expected to “significantly increase” in the coming days and weeks.
Many Bahamians have been left homeless, and thousands have arrived in other cities looking for shelter. But the island’s emergency facilities have been overwhelmed, according to reports.
“We are dealing with a disaster,” Carl Smith, a spokesperson for the country’s emergency management agency, told The Washington Post. “It takes time to move through the chaos. We are responding to the needs.”
CNN and NBC News reported Wednesday that the Trump administration wasn’t planning to grant temporary protected status to people who fled the Bahamas after Dorian struck. The Department of Homeland Security usually grants the status, called TPS, to those fleeing wars or natural disasters until people are able to return home.
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Trump has already smeared some of the storm’s survivors, saying this week that he didn’t want any “very bad people” coming into the United States. There is no evidence to suggest that anyone being evacuated from the Bahamas is a criminal.
“We have to be very careful,” the president said outside the White House this week. “Everyone needs totally proper documentation …. I don’t want to allow people who weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people.”