World

‘We just want to know how to get out of here.’

Days after Hurricane Dorian, hundreds of trapped Bahamians await rescue, amid death and debris.

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The placid turquoise water is sparkling under the sun again, just as it appears on travel brochures promising an exotic getaway to the Abacos Islands. The dependable beauty just offshore now surrounds an island of crushed cars, flattened homes and a destroyed electrical grid. Human remains lie wherever they fell when Dorian arrived. The survivors of Marsh Harbour wander its streets. Most are like Charlese McIntosh, desperate to leave.

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This port city of more than 6,000 was home to quaint island businesses, wood-frame homes and one of the largest urban slums in the Bahamas. Haitians built the shantytown over decades — and saw it destroyed in days. Charite Alouivor took shelter in a church, then ran to another building when the water started to rise. He now has nowhere to stay.

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The disaster certainly has magnified existing inequalities and resentments. But it is the sheer size of the catastrophe on isolated islands accessible only by boat or air that has slowed the response.

The death toll will be “staggering,” the country’s health minister warned, and officials are hurrying to find more coroners, body bags and refrigerated containers to use as morgues.

On Thursday, people were hungry and thirsty, exhausted from sleeping on the ground or in their cars. They know the diseases that fester days into a disaster, and feared that crisis was next. Each day, they cluster at the largely intact government building, waiting for answers.

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By Friday, all the ports had reopened, and a barge had dropped off portable toilets and heavy equipment. The U.S. Coast Guard continued evacuating the sick to the capital city of Nassau, some 100 miles away. But the government had not yet organized rescues for the hundreds left behind.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis came to Great Abaco’s port on Friday and assured those waiting there that help was on the way. “All I need you to do is just be patient and wait,” Minnis said, “because everybody is coming.”