An animal shelter in the Bahamas was devastated by Hurricane Dorian, as flooding resulted in the death of hundreds of its cats and dogs.
The Humane Society of Grand Bahama was looking after around 300 dogs and 100 cats when the storm — then a Category 5 hurricane — swept through and caused a massive flood, according to CNN. By the time the waters subsided, the shelter had lost approximately 220 of those dogs and 50 of the cats.
Elizabeth Burrows, the Humane Society's executive director, said the staff believed the building was safe, as it had survived strong storms in the past.
"And since we didn't flood in the other storms, we really felt like we felt we might get some water, but we had no idea we would get the flood that we did," Burrows told WKRG-TV.
But the shelter's elevated foundation wasn't enough this time. Staff members said the water rushed into the building unexpectedly, giving them little time to evacuate the animals.
Before they knew it, they were working in chest-deep water. The employees ultimately had to escape before they drowned themselves.
"[We were] making sure that everything would be safe to try and put it up high. We ran up in a manhole because the water started to come up so high," Felicia Telfort, the shelter's supervisor told WKRG.
They hid in the attic, waiting out the storm while water surged through the building. Meanwhile, they could still hear the frightened animals below.
"The kennel dogs were still howling and crying. We experienced all of that until they were not even crying anymore," Felicia said.
Many of the animals that died were waiting to be adopted, but others had been left behind by owners who fled the island or left for shelters that didn't allow animals. Burrows said she felt particularly bad for those who "trusted" them to watch their animals.
"I felt devastated," Burrows told WKRG. "We couldn't have predicted this, but I still feel responsible. My heart is broken for the shelter animals that we lost, and I feel so bad for the people who trusted their animals to us. And ultimately we could not protect them."
The full aftermath of Hurricane Dorian is still being assessed, with 45 deaths confirmed in the Bahamas so far and nearly 70,000 left homeless by the storm. Some Bahamian officials suspect the final death toll could be in the thousands.