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Aid Agencies Struggle To Reach Damaged Areas Of The Bahamas


Hurricane Dorian has devastated the Bahamas, and the big question now is how to help people in places that cannot even be reached yet, places like Abaco where the national airport is underwater and aerial pictures show entire neighborhoods have been flattened. NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Nassau in the Bahamas. Hi, Jason.


KING: How is the effort going to get help to people in places like Abaco?

BEAUBIEN: So the effort is really just beginning. At this point, they're just trying to figure out how to actually get teams in to these really hard hit areas and start doing assessments. Yesterday, the prime minister, Hubert Minnis, did a flyover in a U.S. Coast Guard airplane just to sort of get a look at it himself. And this is what he had to say about Abaco.


HUBERT MINNIS: Parts of Abaco are decimated. There is severe flooding. There is severe damage to homes, businesses, other buildings and infrastructure.

BEAUBIEN: And the thing is they weren't even able to do a flyover over Grand Bahama, which has more people and potentially is even worse.

KING: OK. So that remains a big question mark. What are some of the big priorities for Bahamian officials and also for aid officials?

BEAUBIEN: So this first thing of just figuring out how to land in these places. Both the places have - their airports are underwater. They're looking for places where they can actually get some helicopters in. At that point, they want to try to figure out how to even assess what exactly the needs are, how they're going to get facilities in there - the docks have been destroyed - and from there sort of move forward. At the moment, there's no power. People are running out of water and food, and people are getting quite nervous.

KING: Yeah. I guess - I was going to say I guess fresh water and food are probably two things that are going to be coming up over the next couple of hours and days. Jason, I know that you've been tracking Hurricane Dorian, and I wonder, what do we know about where it's headed next?

BEAUBIEN: So at this point, you know, it's heading, you know, up the U.S. coast there. And, you know, the great hope is that it doesn't do what it did here. I mean, here in the Bahamas, you had sustained winds of 185 miles an hour. We've now - at this point, we still have tens of thousands of people who are completely cut off. They don't have cell service. And, you know, as we were saying earlier, people just are trying to figure out what are the needs? So we're hearing desperate calls from people asking about relatives, trying to find people. The death toll officially is at seven at the moment, but even the prime minister yesterday was saying that that's absolutely going to go up. And the concern is that there are going to be, you know, years of recovery that are going to need to happen here. The prime minister basically said that the Bahamas is facing right now the greatest crisis this country has ever faced.

KING: NPR's Jason Beaubien. Jason, thanks so much. Stay safe.

BEAUBIEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Beaubien
Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.