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Bahamian officials said on Wednesday that 2,500 people have been registered as missing in the wake of the devastating hurricane Dorian, a count they said may include people who have fled to shelters around the islands.
“This list has not yet been checked against government records of who are staying in shelters or who have been evacuated,” National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Carl Smith told a news conference. “The database processing is underway.”
Thousands of people are in shelters on the islands. Officials have confirmed 50 deaths caused by the Sept. 1 storm but have warned that toll is likely to rise substantially.
Dorian slammed into the Bahamas over a week ago as one of the strongest Caribbean hurricanes on record, packing top sustained winds of around 300 kilometres per hour.
Smith said more than 5,000 people had evacuated to New Providence, but that they had seen a “significant reduction” in the number of people asking to be evacuated.
The deaths centred largely on the hard-hit Great Abaco Island, an official said on Tuesday.
That is up from the last-reported figure of 45, Carl Smith, a spokesman for the islands’ National Emergency Management Agency, told reporters. Evacuees, rescue workers and officials widely expect the number to climb higher as more bodies are pulled from the rubble of a demolished neighborhood in Marsh Harbour in Abaco.
It was one of the strongest Caribbean hurricanes on record and stands as the worst disaster in Bahamian history.
As relief efforts got underway slowly, stirring frustration among locals, several Bahamians said they might attempt to emigrate to the United States rather than face an uncertain rebuilding at home.
It is not clear whether U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, which has sought to severely curtail legal and illegal immigration, will smooth their path.
But a growing chorus of Congress members, including Florida Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, have called for a suspension of visa requirements to help reunite stranded Bahamians with U.S. relatives.
Some 70,000 people were in need of food and shelter, the World Food Programme estimated. Private forecasters estimated that some $3 billion in insured property was destroyed or damaged in the Caribbean.
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