Dorian, the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, hits the Bahamas[/caption]
The most powerful storm to hit the Caribbean islands of the Bahamas since records began has torn roofs from buildings and caused severe flooding.The slow-moving, category five Dorian – the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record – has sustained winds of up to 180mph (285km/h). A “life-threatening” storm surge of 23ft (7m) is predicted in places. The hurricane is moving slowly westwards and may hit areas of the eastern US seaboard. The US states of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina have all declared states of emergency.
What’s the latest from the Bahamas?The National Hurricane Center said that at 03:00 GMT, Dorian was located on the eastern edge of Grand Bahama, having made landfall earlier on the Abaco islands, which are just to the east. Both chains are in the north of the Bahamas archipelago. Grand Bahama is only 100km (60 miles) east of West Palm Beach in Florida. Dorian is slow-moving, travelling west at only 9km/h (6mph). There was little information overnight from the affected Bahamas islands amid power cuts and limited internet access. The Abaco islands were reported under water after the storm hit on Sunday, with a storm surge of up to 7m (23ft). Government officials said they had seen footage from Abaco of floodwaters the height of a car roof, and homes without roofs. High winds and torrential rainfall have also struck Grand Bahama. Residents posted footage showing floodwaters engulfing some homes after high winds had struck. Videos also show capsized boats floating in floodwaters filled with debris.
How has the Bahamas prepared?The country is one of those most regularly hit by hurricanes, and homes are required to be reinforced to withstand the winds of a category four storm. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis did announce an evacuation order for parts of Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands, All tourists were asked to leave. But officials expressed dismay that some people had chosen to stay. Mr Minnis said: “I can only say to them, that I hope this is not the last time they will hear my voice and may God be with them.” The visibly upset prime minister said in a news conference on Sunday: “This is probably the most sad and worst day of my life. We’re facing a hurricane… that we’ve never seen in the history of the Bahamas.”
What about the US?Although Dorian is currently heading westwards, it is forecast to make a gradual turn north-west, taking it along the eastern US seaboard, making its landfall point, if any, uncertain.
How destructive are category five hurricanes?With sustained wind speeds of at least 157mph they are relatively rare, although four other storms reached this level in the last three years:
- Michael made landfall in Florida last year, causing 59 deaths and about $25bn (£20bn) in damage. It was the strongest storm to make landfall in the US in 26 years and only the fourth hurricane of this category to have hit the country
- Maria, in 2017, devastated the island of Dominica, where it was responsible for 31 deaths, before causing widespread destruction in Puerto Rico as a category four hurricane. A study said nearly 3,000 people had died there as a result
- Irma, also in 2017, made seven landfalls, four of which were category five, across the northern Caribbean Islands, before making landfall in the Florida Keys as a category four storm. It was one of the strongest and costliest hurricanes on record and caused 47 deaths in total
- Matthew, in 2016, was a category five storm that later made landfalls in Haiti, Cuba and Grand Bahama Island as a major hurricane. It was the deadliest hurricane in more than a decade, with 585 deaths, more than 500 of them in Haiti alone