As Bahamians search for missing, Tropical Storm approaches

Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY

Parts of the Bahamas, still digging out from the ravages of Hurricane Dorian that has left 1,300 missing, were watching the approach of Tropical Storm Hubert, which forecasters said was like to strenghen into a hurricane by Sunday.

As of 5 a.m. EDT on Saturday, the center of the tropical storm was about 70 miles east of Great Abaco Island with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. Tropical storm warnings were issued for the northwestern Bahamas.

The disturbance jumped from tropical disturbance to tropical storm overnight.

The storm is expected to produce total rain accumulations in the Bahamas of 2 to 4 inches through Sunday and up to 6 inches in some areas, according to the National Hurricane Center. 

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The threat of more bad weather comes as rescue teams and supply vehicles try to cope with the widespread destruction on hard-hit Abaco, where vast stretches of smashed homes and buildings make some areas almost impassable.

Bahamas emergency officials say 1,300 people are still listed as missing almost two weeks after Hurricane Dorian slammed into the archipelago's northern region, packing winds of 185 mph. 

The website Dorian People Search lists more than 11,600 people, with almost 4,500 described as status "unknown." The site Friday morning said 12 people needed evacuation and five required "critical evacuation."

As family members search for loved ones, the government cautions that the list of missing is preliminary and many could be staying in shelters where communication with the outside is difficult.

But fears are growing that many died when the Category 5 storm pounded the area for almost two days, toppling concrete walls, uprooting trees and leveling buildings.

At least 42 people died in Abaco, the hardest-hit island, and eight in Grand Bahama. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis has warned that number will increase significantly.

“The grief is unbearable,” the prime minister said in a nationwide TV address. “Many are in despair, wondering if their loved ones are still alive.”

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Minnis said officials are providing counseling amid reports of nightmares and psychological trauma for victims and their families.

In the Abaco islands, Diego Carey, a 25-year-old from the hard-hit community of Marsh Harbor, left for the capital, Nassau, after Dorian hit but went back after a 12-hour boat ride to search for two friends still missing.

“We were together during the storm. It happened so fast. The roof just blew off,” he said, adding that was the last time he saw them. “It’s so traumatizing.”

In Grand Cay, on Abaco, Jay Higgs, a 32-year-old diver, tells The Nassau Guardian he is living in a tent next to his home, which lost its roof. “It’s been hell,” he said.

Higgs says aid has been pouring into Grand Cay, where every home was damaged, but that sometimes people end up with dozens of bars of soap and no food.

“It’s really a fight,” he says.

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bahamas braces for Tropical Storm Humberto