PORT OF SPAIN – A senior Bahamian official says it would be “very difficult” for many people in Abacos to have survived the “sheer volume” of water that had flooded the island as a result of the passage of Hurricane Dorian earlier this week.

Director of Information Services in the Office of the Prime Minister, Kevin Harris, speaking on the Citadel Radio network here on Wednesday, said that he expects the death toll to climb as rescue workers make their way now into the areas that had been devastated by the storm, described as one of the most dangerous in recent times.

“The nature of what happened, meaning that the ocean really coming on to land, there were a number of homes and businesses completely submerged. So with the water now receding, I do believe when search and rescue get into there by today, it is expected they will find more individuals who may have passed away during the storm,” he told radio listeners.

Bahamas Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, who had undertaken an aerial visit to the Abacos islands on Tuesday, later told a news conference that two of those airlifted to New Providence for medical treatment had died, bringing the death toll to seven so far.

But he warned Bahamians “that we can expect more deaths to be recorded” saying that “this is just preliminary information”.

Harris said the “sheer volume of water and the photographs and videos we had received during the storm, it would have been very difficult for a lot of people to make it out”.

The United States Chargé d’Affaires, Stephanie Bowers, whose country is involved in the rescue operations said: “We have one collective goal: to assist the victims of one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded.”

“Now is the time to come together and show what partnership means,” he added.

People in the Bahamas have taken to social media in a bid to contact family members and friends even as efforts are being made to restore telecommunication services.

People have also been flooding the state-owned ZNS network, saying that they have not heard from their loved ones since Sunday, when Dorian, then a Category 5 hurricane with winds in excess of 180 miles per hour, slammed into the Abacos and Grand Bahama.

Prime Minster Minnis has appealed to persons not to use social media to spread fake news and images of those killed in the storm.

“Let us have some compassion for the families of those who lost their lives. Let us pray for them. Please I ask you to avoid sending or sharing images of those who perished in the storm. Let us act with compassion. Do not make the grief process worse for families by spreading pictures,” said Minnis, who is also a medical practitioner.

He told a news conference on Tuesday night that part of Abaco had been “decimated’ by the storm”. (CMC)