Hurricane Dorian Death Toll at 23, With 20 in the Bahamas and More Expected as Recovery Continues

Bahamas officials announced Wednesday evening that Hurricane Dorian is responsible for at least 20 deaths there so far, and more are expected. There are two reported deaths in Florida and one more in North Carolina from the powerful and catastrophic storm, bringing the overall death toll to 23.

Bahamas Health Minister Duane Sands said on Tuesday — after the country announced seven deaths from Dorian — that many more could follow. As humanitarian and recovery efforts begin on the islands, he said Wednesday the death toll had risen to 20, and he does not expect it to stop there.

None of the deceased who have been identified in the Bahamas are U.S. citizens, according to a State Department spokesperson.

"At the moment, we are not aware of any U.S. citizens killed or seriously injured in the Bahamas, but the embassy in Nassau is gathering information about U.S. citizens in the affected areas who need help and passing that information to the Coast Guard and other U.S. and Bahamian authorities so they can be included in rescue operations," the spokesperson said in the Miami Herald.

Hurricane Dorian the Bahamas
Catherine Russel is greeted by loved ones after arriving with other survivors of Hurricane Dorian from Abaco issland at Odyssey Aviation at Lynden Pindling International Airport September 4, 2019, in Nassau, New Providence. - Using boats, helicopters and even jet skis, Bahamian, US and British teams engaged in a hectic rescue effort for victims of Hurricane Dorian, which caused unimaginable destruction in the Bahamas. Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Portions of the Bahamas were completely destroyed, especially the Abacos Islands, which endured 24 hours of hurricane force winds and a storm surge of 20 feet in some places. Photos of the destruction show buildings that have been leveled as far as the eye can see, and other images show running water in low-lying places.

Dorian strengthened to a massive Category 5 storm before making landfall three different times in the Bahamas. Dorian packed winds of 185 mph near the eye wall with gusts up to 200 mph or more in some places. It is the most intense storm to make landfall in recorded history of storms in the Atlantic basin.

Hurricane Dorian
An aerial view of damage caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen in Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island on September 4, 2019 in Great Abaco, Bahamas. A massive rescue effort is underway after Hurricane Dorian spent more than a day inching over the Bahamas, killing at least seven as entire communities were flattened, roads washed out and hospitals and airports swamped by several feet of water, according to published reports. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Dorian became a tropical storm on August 24 and slowly grew in speed and strength over the next seven days, skirting around Puerto Rico before taking aim at the Bahamas, which it began lashing on the morning of September 1. Once the storm's well-defined eyewall developed over the northwest islands of the Bahamas, its path meandered and slowly moved — at 1 mph or less — while the wind, at speeds of nearly 200 mph, pummeled the inland.

Now that the storm has moved on from the islands and toward Georgia and the Carolinas, the recovery efforts are beginning in the Bahamas, but not without difficulty.

Many houses were ripped apart, roads were washed away and the Abacos Islands still have no functioning airport, meaning they have to rely on helicopters, airboats and even a flotilla of South Florida charter boats to assist in providing food, water, diapers, baby food, volunteers and other necessary items for Bahamians to live.

But as the days go by, some Bahamians worry about family and friends who have not yet been found. They fear some have moved from one shelter to another, or perhaps could be trapped in a home or under a collapsed roof.

Hurricane Dorian remains a Category 2 storm Wednesday night about 100-150 miles off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina. A hurricane warning remains in effect for the coastline of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and storm advisories are already in place for the Virginia coastline.

The National Hurricane Center indicated the storm could make landfall on the U.S. mainland by Thursday in South Carolina, or it could continue its trek northeast along the U.S. coastline.