Joy Jibrilu Bahamas

Bahamas government officials continued to track Hurricane Dorian as they coordinated rescue and relief efforts focused on the archipelago’s northwest region. The “extremely dangerous” category 3 hurricane remained stalled over the country Tuesday, with Grand Bahama Island continuing to experience “catastrophic winds and storm surge,” said officials from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation (BMOTA).

Widespread reports indicate Hurricane Dorian has devastated the northeast Bahamas after making landfall on September 1 over Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco. The hurricane “severely damaged parts of the island’s chain,” , said BMOTA officials, with at last five deaths reported and more expected as recovery efforts intensify. Dorian’s core is expected to continue to impact Grand Bahama Island through Tuesday.

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The hurricane has also created “severe and widespread flooding in parts of the central Bahamas, officials said. On Monday the US Coast Guard launched a search and rescue operation, airlifting people requiring urgent medical care out of Abaco according to local press reports. The US is also working with Bahamas officials to coordinate broader relief efforts.

“At this time we are doing everything we can to support these islands as first responders begin rescue efforts and assess damage,” said Joy Jibrilu, BMOTA’s director-general. “We are deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of all those in Abaco and Grand Bahama Island.”

She continued, “The Bahamas is an archipelago with more than 700 islands and cays, spread over 100,000 square miles, which means that the effects of Hurricane Dorian will vary greatly.”

Resorts and attractions in Nassau, the Bahamas’ capital, and neighboring Paradise Island remain open. Southeastern and central Bahamian islands including the Exumas, Cat Island, San Salvador, Long Island, Acklins/Crooked Island, Mayaguana and Inagua, have not been affected by the storm.

A hurricane warning remains in effect for the Abacos, Grand Bahama Island, Bimini and the Berry Islands. BMOTA officials are also advising residents and visitors in New Providence, which includes Nassau and Paradise Island, to “exercise caution as they will be impacted by severe showers and thunderstorms from the outer bands of Hurricane Dorian.”

While Dorian has wracked the northwest section of the Bahamas, Jibrilu said BMOTA officials “continue to be grateful that the majority of our islands and cays have been unaffected.”

Nassau and Paradise Island resorts, along with Lynden Pindling International Airport, remain open. Hotels, resorts and tourism businesses across the Northwest Bahamas “have activated their hurricane response programs and are taking all necessary precautions to protect visitors and residents,” BMOTA officials said.

US travel agents with clients in the Bahamas or with plans to travel there are working to adjust to the storm’s impact. Anneke Marchese, owner of AM/FM Leisure & Adventure Travel in Bend, Oregon, has three couples cruising in the Bahamas aboard Carnival Sensation.

“I’ve reached out by text since their departure, but haven’t heard a single thing,” Marchese said. “The news sounds grim, but I also know first-hand the media can be deceiving. I’m hopeful to hear they’ve had a wonderful, if not slightly bumpy, time together celebrating.”

Camille Sperrazza, owner of Brooklyn-based The World Awaits Travel, informed clients scheduled to travel to the Bahamas Tuesday that their trip was being canceled because flights were not departing for Nassau today.

“Yesterday morning we were still discussing options as the situation remained uncertain, with some weather sites even indicating the weather in Nassau would be okay during their stay,” she said. “At about 5 p.m. Vacation Express made the decision; they canceled the trip and gave them full refunds.”

Meanwhile, officials at numerous Caribbean groups are organizing support for Bahamas residents impacted by the hurricane. The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) activated its Hurricane Relief Fund, established to assist Caribbean nations rebuild after following disasters.

“[CTO] expresses our deepest regret and sadness over the loss of life and damage done to the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island by dangerous category 5 Hurricane Dorian,” officials said in a statement.

“However we are a resilient people who refuse to surrender even in the most difficult of times and we are confident the people of the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, with the full support of the Islands of the Bahamas and the Caribbean tourism family, will navigate the road to recovery together and emerge stronger.”

TravelPulse Editor Joe Pike contributed to this report.