NASSAU (CBSMiami) – The Abacos, an area hit hardest by Hurricane Dorian, is about 130 miles south of Nassau where there is a huge humanitarian relief effort underway.
The storm parked over the Bahamas and pounded it for over a day and a half with winds up to 185 mph and torrential rains, swamping neighborhoods in muddy brown floodwaters and destroying or severely damaging thousands of homes.
CBS4’s Ted Scouten spoke with a family that had just arrived in Nassau from Abaco, now waiting for more relatives on a second helicopter. They had a horrifying story to tell.
“My brother’s roof collapsed on his wife and she was trapped,” said Sandy Cooke. “He couldn’t find her. The dog found her but he couldn’t lift the roof off of her himself, so she was trapped there for 17 hours. They just got here this morning, she’s in doctor’s hospital in emergency right now.”
A steady stream of ambulances have been seen leaving, some heading to hospitals in Nassau.
Meanwhile, families have gathered outside a small airport terminal hoping for good news about loved ones.
“There’s no word on them yet. I’m just hoping they’re OK,” said Ralanda McKinney.
McKinney’s parents, two brothers, her grandmother and cousins all live in Abaco. She’s hoping they’ll arrive on one of these helicopters.
“I got word that people have seen them in Treasure Key, so I’m just waiting to see if they’re being evacuated from there,” McKinney said.
Another family was waiting for their mom, Charmaine, who is also from Abaco.
“To have word, officially, that my mom is OK from people who saw her, not only hours ago, means the world to me because something could have happened since the last time I spoke to her,” said Raevyn Bootle.
They just want to hug her.
“Mom we love you,” a teary-eyed Meghan Bootle said. “We’re coming for you and just hold on, OK.”
But there’s also concern. Some who are making it out said there are instances of looting.
“My nephew’s wife was saying that it is scary, they’re throwing rocks at you, they’re breaking your windows that aren’t broken,” said Cooke. “The houses that are still intact, they’re trying to take them over. They’re looting everything.”
It’s a completely different story in Nassau, where locals are doing what they can to help ease some of the suffering for those who are still stranded in the destruction.
While members of the U.S. Coast Guard conduct numerous rescue missions, both people and pets, volunteers are taking the next step in making sure victims of the storm have food to eat and medication to take.
“You just feel helpless and you’re trying to do a little bit it help out,” said Britta Benta, who was donating goods.
A constant flow of people have been dropping off groceries and relief supplies, such as lanterns, duct tape and batteries.
At the New Providence Community Center where churches, local groups and individuals have been donating supplies in overwhelming numbers.
There is an assembly line of sorts as volunteers pack up food, water, plates, personal hygiene items, children products, cleaning products, medications and more.
Once it is boxed up, the aid will get put on a ship and sent to the Abacos and areas like Freeport and Marsh Harbour.
“The island, you have six degrees of separation. Here, you have three degrees of separation. We’re all related, we’re all connected,” said volunteer Jamal Smith. “It really hits the heart. It just puts you at a loss for words.”
The next step is evacuating victims, most likely to Nassau, but it will undoubtedly take time.
A day after the most powerful hurricane on record ever to hit the country finished mauling the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, emergency workers had yet to reach some stricken areas.
“Right now there are just a lot of unknowns,” Parliament member Iram Lewis said. “We need help.”
Rescuers are using jet skis, boats and even a bulldozer to reach children and adults trapped by the swirling waters, while the U.S. Coast Guard, Britain’s Royal Navy and disaster relief organizations are trying to get food and medicine to survivors and take the most desperate people to safety.
Five Coast Guard helicopters ran near-hourly flights to stricken Abaco, flying people to the main hospital in the capital, Nassau.