More than 90 dogs, cats died in Bahamas shelter overwhelmed by Hurricane Dorian

John Bacon, USA TODAY

A GoFundMe drive for the Humane Society of Grand Bahama had drawn more than $160,000 in donations Tuesday to rebuild a shelter where more than 90 dogs and cats died in floodwaters from Hurricane Dorian.

The historic Category 5 storm slammed into the Bahamas on Sept. 1 and lingered for days, destroying entire communities and leaving tens of thousands of residents homeless. The government's official death toll stood at 50 Tuesday but was likely to greatly increase.

The Humane Society's Facebook page chronicles the devastating progression of water into the shelter. The staff of six survived the storm – but only after lashing themselves together and swimming to higher ground, according to one post.

More than 150 animals survived, shelter director Tip Burrows said.

"I am not quite ready to speak at length about our horrific losses but please know we are all heartbroken and traumatized," an entry posted Saturday says. "Your love and concern is so appreciated."

Julia Aylen wades through waist-deep water carrying her pet dogs Sept. 3 as she is rescued from her flooded home during Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Bahamas.

The desperate posts began Sept. 2 when the shelter said its vehicles had become submerged and its drains weren't working. The shelter was overwhelmed by 5 feet of water. 

Two hours later, a post asked for "immediate help" from rescuers, saying six people were caught in neck-high water. Three days later, the losses inside and outside the shelter came to light. Five of the six shelter workers lost homes in the storm. 

"Yesterday was incredibly emotional for Tip and the shelter staff," a Sept. 5 post said. "They are managing the best they can in light of all the tragedy and destruction."

The next day, an airlift began to move dogs to shelters in the USA.

Burrows was at home during the height of the storm. Workers at the shelter were surprised by how quickly the water stormed in, she said.

“We’ve been through several storms there with no flooding issues at all,” Burrows told the Miami Herald. “So the water all of a sudden just started rushing in. They described it sort of like a raging river.”

Burrows told CNN she was "devastated" by the deaths.

"My heart is broken," she said. "I feel so sad for the people who entrusted their animals to us, and ultimately, we couldn't protect them."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hurricane Dorian update: More than 90 animals died in Bahamas shelter