“Six days! Six days and that body’s still here!” shouted Charite Alouivor, 55, a carpenter of Haitian descent. “Where are they? Where is the help? Where is the water? Where is the food? Where is the government? Why are there bodies still here?”
This port city of more than 6,000 was once home to quaint island businesses, wood-frame homes and one of the largest urban slums in the Bahamas. When Dorian struck, Marsh Harbour was ground zero, the point of impact of one of the strongest cyclones on record. The storm made landfall here as a Category 5 hurricane, a deadly tempest that leveled homes, crushed cars, crumpled boats and killed people.
On Thursday, teams in hazmat suits were scouring Marsh Harbour, performing the grim, grueling duty of digging through the rubble for remains.
“There are more bodies over there in the Mudd,” said 12-year-old Ville Maurin. He pointed — through trees stripped bare and crushed — to the slum, which had been reduced to a field of dense debris.
He said he rode out the storm inside a refrigerator in his home.
“When I opened the door,” he said. “Oh Lord, oh Lord. Everything gone.”
Bahamian authorities continued Thursday to assess the destruction wrought by the most powerful storm to strike in decades. Officials raised the number of confirmed deaths to 30 but expect the toll will keep climbing.
The U.S. Coast Guard, the British Royal Navy, relief organizations and volunteers continued to deliver emergency supplies and evacuate victims. But in a storm-ravaged nation of 400,000 spread across more than 700 islands, conditions and communications are challenging.
“This is the worst I’ve seen in the Bahamas by far,” said Rear Adm. Eric Jones, commander of the Coast Guard’s 7th District in Miami. Storm surge and debris in many areas have prevented helicopters from landing, boats from navigating and trucks from driving.
“Physically, there’s just roads that aren’t there anymore,” Jones said.
Marsh Harbour, the largest town on the northern island of Great Abaco, has laid bare the inequality in natural disaster.
Some wealthy islanders have paid private aviation firms upward of $20,000 to be airlifted out. But the people of the Mudd are stuck here. Some are squatting in broken, abandoned homes. Others are scrambling for floor space in shelters without steady food or water.
At night, residents say, the sound of gunfire has echoed through the wreckage. For days, there has been virtually no law in the streets. The only armed guards visible on a busy Thursday were the security personnel at a local hospital.
“The rich people, yeah, they can get out,” said Charlese McIntosh, a 33-year-old waitress whose house was totaled in the storm. “They take their friends, their family, in helicopters and small planes.”
She had salvaged a few items of clothing, and hung them on bushes outside the Marsh Harbour Healthcare Center. Hundreds of residents had sheltered there for days. On Thursday morning, they were cleared out.
McIntosh said she came to the hospital because she had heard a rumor that people would be evacuated from there to Nassau. By late Thursday, there was no sign of rescue.
“We need to go,” she said. “We need to get out of here. We have families, too.”
Sitha Silien, 25, sat outside with her 2-year-old son, Jaden. She said her mother was washed away by rushing water, and her brother died trying to save her.
She held up a passport.
“This is my mother,” she said. “She is dead in the water.”
The body remains near what’s left of her house.
“Where should I go?” she asked. “I have nowhere to go.”
From the air, the Mudd is an expanse of broken rubble. The crushed huts are no longer recognizable among the splintered timber and twisted tin roofs. An enclave of poor immigrants mostly from Haiti, the Mudd was forgotten even before the storm, residents say. The better conditions that officials promised for more than a decade never materialized.
“Now they treat us like they did before,” said Alexandre Licantel, a 42-year-old housepainter who lived 18 years in the Mudd. “Like we don’t exist.”
Licantel’s two-room shack was smashed to pieces.
Islanders drove half-destroyed cars, some with their front windows blown out, gingerly around fallen power lines and debris. Some dragged rollaway suitcases toward the hospital in search of shelter and food.
Emmanuel Nelson, a 46-year-old tradesman, sat on the stoop of a house blown off its foundation. He and five other men are squatting there now.
“We have no aid. No one is helping us,” he said. He said they have gone house to abandoned house in search of food.
“This is survival,” he said. “We need to help ourselves.”
Some homeless islanders have sought shelter in a municipal building. Several said they were told Thursday to leave and find shelter elsewhere. Their accounts could not be immediately confirmed.
“Where am I sleeping tonight, huh?” said Javie Bienaimer, a 48-year-old repairman. “What am I supposed to eat? What are any of us supposed to eat? Come on, man. it’s been six days.”
Alouivor, the carpenter, said he hadn’t been able to bathe, brush his teeth or change his clothes in six days.
Haitian immigrants squatting in houses near the health center said they were doing what they could to survive.
“Please take me with you,” Licantel said. “They have forgotten us. If I stay here, I am going to die.”
Maria Sacchetti and Rachelle Krygier in Miami, Zoeann Murphy in Marsh Harbour, and Jasper Ward in Nassau contributed to this report.