Hurricane survivors struggle with life after Dorian in Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Thousands of hurricane survivors are filing off boats and planes in the capital of the Bahamas, facing the need to start new lives after Hurricane Dorian but with little ideas on how or where to begin.

Some sat in hotel lobbies as they debated their next steps. Others were bused to shelters jammed to capacity. Some got rides from friends or family who offered a temporary place to stay on New Providence island, which has never seen so many people arrive on its shores in recent history.

Most of the nearly 400,000 people in the Bahamas live on New Providence, which includes the capital, Nassau.

Carla Ferguson, a 51-year-old resident of Treasure Cay, walked out of a small airport in Nassau with her daughter and other relatives late Monday afternoon and looked around as the sun set.

"We don't know where we're going to stay," she said. "We don't know."

Ferguson and her family had one large duffel bag and three plastic storage boxes, most of them stuffed with donated clothes they received before leaving their tiny, devastated island.

"No one deserves to go through this," said her daughter, 30-year-old Dimple Lightbourne, blinking away tears.

The government has estimated that up to 10,000 people from the Abaco islands alone, including Treasure Cay, will need food, water and temporary housing as officials consider setting up tent or container cities while they clear the country's ravaged northern region of debris so people can eventually return.

Getting back to Abaco is the dream of Betty Edmond, a 43-year-old cook who picked at some fries Monday night while with her son and husband in a restaurant at a Nassau hotel, where her nephew is paying for their stay.

They arrived in Nassau on Saturday night after a six-hour boat trip from Abaco and plan to fly to South Florida on Wednesday, thanks to plane tickets bought by friends who will provide them a temporary home until they can find jobs. But the goal is to return, Edmond said.

"Home will always be home," she said. "Every day you wish you could go back."

"You try to keep your hopes up, but ...," she added, her voice trailing off as she shook her head.

The upheaval, however, was exciting to her 8-year-old son, Kayden Monestime, who said he was looking forward to going to a mall, McDonald's and Foot Locker.

Instead of starting school Monday, as had been scheduled before the Category 5 storm hit, Monestime spent the day accompanying his parents to the bank and a shelter as they prepared for the move to the U.S.

Also flying to Florida was 41-year-old Shaneka Russell, who owned Smacky's Takeaway, a takeout restaurant known for its cracked conch that opened in 2005 and was named after the noises her son made as a baby. Russell's mother once ran the place, which was destroyed by Dorian.

On Monday, she sat in a white plastic chair under a white plastic tarp as she waited for her 13-year-old son to arrive from Abaco.

Russell said good Samaritans had taken her and a group of people into their home over the weekend and found them a hotel room in Nassau for a couple of days.

"To know that we were going to a hotel, with electricity and air conditioning and a proper shower, I cried," she said. "I've never been through anything like this in my life."

Dorian slammed into Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands a week ago as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever. Caribbean emergency officials say at least 45 people died, and searchers expect to find more victims.

Members of the Gainesville, Florida, fire department were checking the ruins of The Mudd, the Bahamas' largest Haitian immigrant community on Great Abaco.

"We've probably hit at most one-tenth of this area, and so far we found five human remains," said Joseph Hillhouse, assistant chief of Gainesville Fire Rescue. "I would say based off of our sample size, we're going to see more."

After U.S. teams recovered some bodies, Bahamas police and medical authorities moved in to conduct autopsies and fly the bodies south to Nassau.

"There are still more bodies," said Genoise Arnold, a resident of The Mudd, who knew of at least three neighbors killed during the storm.

Related: Hurricane Dorian: See the storm’s effect on the Bahamas, Florida and more

44 PHOTOS
Hurricane Dorian: See the storm's effect on the Bahamas, Florida and more
See Gallery
Hurricane Dorian: See the storm's effect on the Bahamas, Florida and more
Brennamae Cooper, right, cries and hugs a friend after finding themselves walking in opposite directions, one escaping the destruction of Hurricane Dorian and the other on the way to search for her relatives, on a shattered road near the town of High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)
Extensive damage and destruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian is seen in Great Abaco, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. The storm’s devastation has come into sharper focus as the death toll climbed to 20 and many people emerged from shelters to check on their homes. (AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)
A man walks past damages caused by Hurricane Dorian on September 5, 2019, in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. - Hurricane Dorian lashed the Carolinas with driving rain and fierce winds as it neared the US east coast Thursday after devastating the Bahamas and killing at least 20 people. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Limbs from trees covered the sidewalks around Forsyth Park Thursday morning, Sept. 5, 2019, following the passing of Hurricane Dorian. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News via AP)
Homes flattened by Hurricane Dorian are seen in Abaco, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. The storm’s devastation has come into sharper focus as the death toll climbed to 20 and many people emerged from shelters to check on their homes. (AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)
Women cover their heads with palmetto leaves as they rest on the road, after the passage of Hurricane Dorian, near High Rock in Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. The women are walking to the town of High Rock to look for their relatives. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Power company lineman work to restore power after a tornado hit Emerald Isle, N.C. as Hurricane Dorian moved up the East coast on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)
Beaufort Police Officer Curtis Resor, left, and Sgt. Micheal Stepehens check a sailboat for occupants in Beaufort, N.C. after Hurricane Dorian passed the North Carolina coast on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. Dorian howled over North Carolina's Outer Banks on Friday — a much weaker but still dangerous version of the storm that wreaked havoc in the Bahamas — flooding homes in the low-lying ribbon of islands and throwing a scare into year-round residents who tried to tough it out. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)
Una mujer (izquierda) habla por su celular tras ser evacuada de las islas Ábaco junto a otras personas luego del paso del huracán Dorian, en un aeropuerto privado en Nassau, Bahamas, el 5 de septiembre de 2019. (AP Foto/Fernando Llano)
Johnny Crawford navega en su kayak por una calle inundada, el 5 de septiembre de 2019, en Charleston, Carolina del Sur, tras el paso del huracán Dorian. (AP Foto/Meg Kinnard)
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flies over a house destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, in High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. At least 30 people died in the hurricane and the number could be "significantly higher," Bahamian health minister Duane Sands told The Associated Press in a telephone interview late Thursday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A man cries after discovering his shattered house and not knowing anything about his 8 relatives who lived in the house, missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, in High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A couple embraces on a road destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, as they walk to the town of High Rock to try and find their relatives in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, in Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Forensic police rest after helping to recover a corpse in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, in High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Fernley Cooper walks with with his daughter Grace, with what they could recover from their house, on a road destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, near High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5 , 2019. Cooper and his daughter walked to Freeport to take refuge in the home of their relatives. (AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)
Fernley Cooper, hand in hand with his daughter Grace, walks with what they could recover from their house, on a road destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, near High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5 , 2019. Cooper and his daughter walked to Freeport to take refuge in the home of their relatives. (AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)
A woman comforts a man who cries after discovering his shattered house and not knowing anything about his 8 relatives who lived in the house, missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, in High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
The portico of a house destroyed by Hurricane Dorian is the only thing that stands of the structure, destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, in High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday Sept. 5, 2019. At least 30 people died in the hurricane and the number could be "significantly higher," Bahamian health minister Duane Sands told The Associated Press in a telephone interview late Thursday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Forensic police recover a corpse in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, in High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Forensic police recover a corpse in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, in High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Brennamae Cooper, right, cries as she walks to Freeport, escaping of the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian, near the town of High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Cooper walked with her husband and daughter to a relatives house in Freeport. The couple at left are on their way to High Rock to search for family member. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
MARSH HARBOUR, BAHAMAS - SEPTEMBER 5 : Debris from Hurricane Dorrian covers a neighborhood in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Hurricane Dorian made landfall here as a Category 5 hurricane, a deadly tempest that leveled homes, crushed cars, crumpled boats and killed people. (Photo by Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
People explore the streets after Hurricane Dorian on September 5, 2019, in Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco, Bahamas. - The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told American network CNN on Thursday. Authorities had previously reported 20 dead, but have warned that the final figure is sure to be far higher. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A view of damage from Hurricane Dorian on September 5, 2019, in Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco, Bahamas. - The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told American network CNN on Thursday. Authorities had previously reported 20 dead, but have warned that the final figure is sure to be far higher. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - People shelter inside a church after surviving Hurricane Dorian on September 5, 2019, in Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco, Bahamas. - The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told American network CNN on Thursday. Authorities had previously reported 20 dead, but have warned that the final figure is sure to be far higher. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People shelter inside a church after surviving Hurricane Dorian on September 5, 2019, in Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco, Bahamas. - The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told American network CNN on Thursday. Authorities had previously reported 20 dead, but have warned that the final figure is sure to be far higher. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man is seen among the damage from Hurricane Dorian on September 5, 2019, in Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco, Bahamas. - The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told American network CNN on Thursday. Authorities had previously reported 20 dead, but have warned that the final figure is sure to be far higher. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Survivors of Hurricane Dorian receive a meal from the World Central Kitchen at the government complex on September 5, 2019, in Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco, Bahamas. - The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told American network CNN on Thursday. Authorities had previously reported 20 dead, but have warned that the final figure is sure to be far higher. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People shelter inside a church after surviving Hurricane Dorian on September 5, 2019, in Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco, Bahamas. - The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told American network CNN on Thursday. Authorities had previously reported 20 dead, but have warned that the final figure is sure to be far higher. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the World Central Kitchen delivers food relief to survivors of Hurricane Dorian September 5, 2019, in Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco, Bahamas. - The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told American network CNN on Thursday. Authorities had previously reported 20 dead, but have warned that the final figure is sure to be far higher. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Chef Jose Andres carries food relief while working with his charity group World Central Kitchen to help survivors of Hurricane Dorian September 5, 2019, in Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco, Bahamas. - The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told American network CNN today. Authorities had previously reported 20 dead, but have warned that the final figure is sure to be far higher. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
September 6, 2019; Myrtle Beach, SC, USA; People collect shells near a stranded Jeep car in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina before it was towed around 8 a.m. Friday, September 6, 2019. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard/The Greenville News via USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa USA
September 6, 2019; Myrtle Beach, SC, USA; Real Estate booklet racks blew over during Hurricane Dorian, but not much other damage along North Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Friday, September 6, 2019. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard/The Greenville News via USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa USA
September 6, 2019; Myrtle Beach, SC, USA; People walk on the beach during lower tide in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina after Hurricane Dorian cameFriday, September 6, 2019. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard/The Greenville News via USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa USA
September 6, 2019; Myrtle Beach, SC, USA; Terence Powell puts a lid back on a North Ocean Boulevard garbage can in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Friday, September 6, 2019. Powell said the city took them off before Hurricane Dorian came so they would not blow off. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard/The Greenville News via USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa USA
September 6, 2019; Myrtle Beach, SC, USA; People walk on the beach during lower tide in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina after Hurricane Dorian came Friday, September 6, 2019. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard/The Greenville News via USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa USA
Heavy surf from Hurricane Dorian strikes the Yaupon Beach Pier on Oak Island on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in Oak Island, N.C. (Photo by Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS/Sipa USA)
Linda Hendrickson and Steve Edwards watch the heavy surf from Hurricane Dorian as it strikes the Yaupon Beach Pier on Oak Island on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in Oak Island, N.C. (Photo by Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS/Sipa USA)
September 5, 2019; Wilmington, NC, USA; Water fills Water Street in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina on Sept. 5, 2019. Mandatory Credit: Angeli Wright/Asheville Citizen Times via USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa USA
September 5, 2019; Wilmington, NC, USA; Jackson Navarra and his dog, Riku, cross a flooded Water Street near the Riverwalk in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, during a break in the bad weather caused by Hurricane Dorian on Sept. 5, 2019. Navarra said he took Riku for an extra long walk because he could and that he was "pretty underwhelmed so far" by the storm which is expected to cross over the area overnight. Mandatory Credit: Angeli Wright/Asheville Citizen Times via USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa USA
Horry County Fire rescue check on The Retreat subdivision in Little River, near North Myrtle Beach, after a tornado from Hurricane Dorian damaged the area Thursday, Septemeber 5, 2019. Hurricane Dorian Hits Thursday (Photo by KEN RUINARD / GANNETT USA TODAY NETWORK, The Greenville News via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA Today Network/Sipa USA)
A man walks away from the ocean on the Boardwalk in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Thursday, Septemeber 5, 2019. Hurricane Dorian Hits Thursday (Photo by KEN RUINARD / GANNETT USA TODAY NETWORK, The Greenville News via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA Today Network/Sipa USA)
Downed tree limbs on Calhoun Street at Marion Square in Charleston, SC, during Hurricane Dorian Thursday, September 5, 2019. The storm center was 80 miles south-southeast of Charleston at 7 a.m. packing sustained winds of 115 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Charlestondorian Mb14 09052019 (Photo by MATT BURKHARTT/Staff, The Greenville News via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA Today Network/Sipa USA)
As multiple law enforcement agengies continue their investigation into the shooting of at least on Madison County Sheriff deputy Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, on Hwy. 16 along the edge of the Canton Country Club, Mississippi State Troopers and Canton Police cordone the crime scene. Madison County Sheriff deputy shooting (Photo by Barbara Gauntt/Clarion Ledger, Mississippi Clarion Ledger via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA Today Network/Sipa USA)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Arnold said one neighbor clung to a tree during Dorian and succumbed to flood waters that surged through the low-lying neighborhood. Others were caught under their homes when winds turned the structures into splinters, leaving the cowering residents exposed, he said.

The huge debris piles left by the storm are challenging for search and recovery teams, which cannot use bulldozers or other heavy equipment to search for the dead. That makes recovery and identification a slow process.

At least five deaths have been blamed on the storm in the southeastern United States and one in Puerto Rico.

Lightbourne, the Abaco resident now in Nassau, said she couldn't wait to escape the disaster Dorian left behind.

"I don't want to see the Bahamas for a while. It's stressful," she said. "I want to go to America. ...This is a new chapter. I've ripped all the pages out. Just give me a new book to fill out."

___

Associated Press writer Gonzalo Gaudenzi in Abaco contributed to this report.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.