Dorian Bahamas Death Toll at 50, But Many Still Missing
Bahamian authorities say the official death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 50 in the country, but hundreds more, perhaps thousands are believed missing from the devastation left by last week's storm.
Grand Bahama and Abaco islands, in the northern part of the Bahamas archipelago, were virtually flattened by the Category 5 hurricane with winds of up to 320 kilometers an hour. Thousands of survivors have been forced to head to New Providence island, the country's most populous, which includes the capital, Nassau.
"We anticipate the discovery of more deceased persons, as the process of search and recovery progresses," police commissioner Anthony Ferguson said. Police have appealed to the public to file reports of missing persons.
The United Nations' International Organization for Migration said the devastation was "particularly startling" in places like Marsh Harbor in the Abacos, where Hatian migrants lived in shantytowns.
"Communities such as The Mudd and Pigeon Pea, where 70 percent of informal housing in Abaco existed, and where an overwhelming majority of Haitian migrants resided, has been decimated," the migration agency said.
The World Food Program said 90% of the housing and infrastructure is damaged or destroyed on Abaco, with thousands of houses leveled, telecommunications towers down and roads blocked.
Thousands of survivors of the hurricane are pouring off boats and planes in Nassau. Some could be seen sitting in hotel lobbies pondering their next steps, while others were transported to already crowded shelters or moved in with friends on New Providence.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday his administration is discussing the possibility of granting Bahamian residents temporary protected status, a short-term permission to reside in the United States.
Trump told reporters at the White House that "we're talking to a lot of different people" about the issue. However, he said the U.S. would need to make sure immigrants from the Bahamas are properly documented.
"We have to be very careful ... I don't want to allow people that weren't supposed to be in the Bahamas to come in to the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members," he said.
Senators from the state of Florida have been asking the president to grant the status to Bahamian residents, a protection that in the past has helped people from Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras, which Trump has been trying to roll back.
Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters that the United States is expediting its immigration processes for residents of the Bahamas. However, he said immigration officials must still vet all immigrants for possible threats to national security.
When asked about an incident Sunday in which hundreds of storm survivors were prevented from boarding a ferry in the Bahamas because they lacked U.S. visas, Morgan said the situation was a mistake and the result of "some confusion." He said, "If your life is in jeopardy you will be allowed in, if you have documents or not."