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‘It looks like an atomic bomb went off.’ Here’s what Hurricane Dorian did to the Bahamas.

The Miami Herald traveled to Abaco after Hurricane Dorian. This is what we saw

Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas. This is what the Abaco islands look like after the Cat 5 storm.
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Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas. This is what the Abaco islands look like after the Cat 5 storm.

The images coming from the islands of the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian are heartbreaking.

Flooding, debris, collapsed homes. A tropical paradise in shambles.

Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds at 185 mph and gusts of 220 mph hit the island chain hard.

Parts of the Abacos and Grand Bahama islands are under water, hundreds have been rescued but thousands are still missing. On Thursday, the official death count was at 30, but it’s expected to rise as damage surveys begin.

Satellite imagery collected before and after Hurricane Dorian show the extent of flooding on Grand Bahama Island. The island’s transportation and infrastructure have been seriously damaged by high speed winds, storm surges and flooding.

Dorian was the strongest hurricane in modern records to hit the northwestern Bahamas, according to forecasters. The storm is tied with the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to make landfall. The only recorded storm more powerful was Hurricane Allen in 1980, with 190-mph winds, though it didn’t make landfall at that strength.

By Wednesday, according to the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, Dorian had moved out of the Bahamas, which consists of nearly 700 islands, 30 of them inhabited.

The Coast Guard and other search and rescue teams have been deployed, and aid is pouring in from all over, including South Florida. Recovery could take months in some areas, years in others.

Although some islands were severely hit by Dorian, others did not face much of its wrath.

Here is a look at the Bahamas before and after Dorian slowly raged through and uprooted hundreds of lives.

The Abacos

The Abacos boat pier.jpg
The third most populous and second largest island in the Bahamas, Abaco is best known as a “yachtsman’s paradise,” and is the Bahamas’ boating capital, according to the Government of The Bahamas website. Its two major islands, Great and Little Abaco, serve as the “mainland.” Bahamas Ministry of Tourism website

The Abacos are a group of islands and cays that form a 120-mile-long chain stretching over 650 square miles, including its two major islands, Great Abaco (sometimes called Abaco Island) and Little Abaco. Great Abaco is the third most populous and second largest island in the Bahamas, and is known for its yachting.

After Dorian, Great Abaco was “uninhabitable,” residents said. In Marsh Harbour, one of the largest towns on the island, most of the homes were destroyed by the storm.

LZ1TheMudAbacoHurricaneDorian090519
Destruction from Hurricane Dorian in an area called “The Mudd” at Marsh Harbour in Great Abaco Island, Bahamas, on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

The Mudd, a poor area near Marsh Harbour that was home to thousands of Haitians, Haitian Bahamians and other migrants, most of them undocumented, is gone.

Errol Thurston, a Marsh Harbour resident who went to Florida days before the storm hit, flew over the island Thursday and said 90 to 95 percent of the island was destroyed. He’s collecting supplies and raising funds for the victims.

“It literally looks like an atomic bomb went off,” Thurston said.

Grand Bahama Island

Garden of the Groves Grand Bahamas.jpg
The second most populous island in the Bahamas and home to Freeport, a major city, Grand Bahama has several fishing villages, three national parks and other cultural and historical sites. Bahama’s Ministry of Tourism & Aviation Website

Grand Bahama is the second most populous island in the Bahamas and home to Freeport, a major city. Grand Bahama also suffered from being in the path of the storm, which flooded shelters and swamped the airport.

Residents in Freeport, on the island of Grand Bahama, were left stranded on September 2, as Hurricane Dorian brought devastating winds and floods to the area. This footage shows water sloshing around the floor inside the building.

All the patient rooms in Rand Memorial Hospital were flooded. Hospital officials said only 10 beds were available, and they were occupied.

Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport was hit hard by Hurricane Dorian, which pummeled the Bahamas over Labor Day weekend. Two U.S. Coast Guard helicopters touched down on Friday, September 6, 2019, to see if there was any room for patients.

The Humane Society of Grand Bahama, built on a 10-foot elevation near the Atlantic Ocean in Freeport, also suffered a major loss — 113 dogs and cats killed after five feet of floodwaters filled its halls during the peak of Dorian’s fury.

The primary animal shelter in Grand Bahama was hit with deadly storm surge nearing 20 feet high. Five feet of floodwaters filled the Humane Society of Grand Bahama as Hurricane Dorian devastated the island. More than 100 dogs and cats died.

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio also wrote on Twitter that industrial fuel tanks had flooded, causing oil to spill into the sea. U.S. government hazmat teams were arriving soon, but the spills had been contained, he wrote.

Unscathed islands or ones with minor damage

While Hurricane Dorian ripped through Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands along with a few cays, many islands and vacation destinations were not hit or were only lightly affected by the storm.

Islands that were not impacted by Hurricane Dorian remain open and are receiving visitors.

In the Northwest Bahamas, these include the Bahamian capital of Nassau and neighboring Paradise Island, as well as Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Andros, according to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation.

Islands in the Southeastern and Central Bahamas remain unaffected, including The Exumas, Cat Island, San Salvador, Rum Cay, Long Island, Acklins/Crooked Island, Ragged Island, Mayaguana and Inagua.

Although unaffected, the Exumas had many on social media worrying because one of its cays — Big Major Cay — is home to the internationally known swimming pigs.

Cruise line islands

Royal Caribbean said Thursday it hopes to reopen its private island, CocoCay, on Saturday.

Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley told Travel Weekly that inspectors estimated winds reached speeds between 96 and 129 mph and the north side of the island suffered the most damage. The south side was mostly untouched.

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Royal Caribbean International’s new CocoCay private island, here in more tranquil times on May 4, 2019, reportedly survived Hurricane Dorian, which touched land about 80 miles north of CocoCay on September 2, 2019. Royal Caribbean International

Disney’s island, Castaway Cay, which is near Great Abaco, remains closed as it waits for an inspection.

The island was hit with tropical storm conditions and because of this Disney said “we have some cleaning up to do related to landscaping and will need to make minor repairs to the roof of one small covered pavilion area.”

The pier and ship channel need to be evaluated before the island reopens.

Carnival Corp.’s private island, Half Moon Cay, near Eleuthera, received some damage, but all in all, it survived the hurricane. Holland America, a Carnival Corp. Line, posted on Facebook that there was some minor beach erosion but no structural damage, “and the horses and stingrays are all doing well.”

Holland America Line ships are scheduled to return to the island on Oct. 21, starting with the Zuiderdam. Carnival Cruise Line is scheduled to return on Sept. 12.

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Real Time/Breaking News Reporter. There’s never a dull moment in Florida — and I cover it. Graduated with honors from Florida International University. Find me on Twitter @TweetMichelleM
Miami Herald Real Time Reporter Devoun Cetoute covers breaking news, Florida theme parks and general assignment. He attends the University of Florida and grew up in Miami. Theme parks are on his mind in and out of the office.
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