The death toll in the Bahamas from Hurricane Dorian rose on Thursday to 23 after three bodies were found on Grand Bahama and Abacos Island, Health Minister Duane Sands announced.
After delivering the new official tally of storm victims, the minister emphasized that the death toll will rise “much higher” than 23.
In addition, he said that the death toll is still at 23 because only a few people are qualified to officially pronounce dead the people whose bodies are being found, and until the deaths are officially confirmed they cannot be added to the list of victims.
He said he knew that it might seem ridiculous to many people but if the procedure for declaring a person dead is not scrupulously followed it could have legal and insurance consequences.
Sands, who did not provide any details about where the three bodies were found, said that specialized personnel will be sent to both islands to embalm the dead at the scene, and refrigerated containers would be provided to preserve the remains, which - he said - are beginning to run out.
He also said that the priority at present is to rescue and provide urgent assistance to the elderly and the sick, who are being transferred to islands in the archipelago that were not devastated by the storm, which struck parts of the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane, the most powerful on the five-level scale.
Meanwhile, Sands said that the country had never experienced a catastrophe of this kind, adding that he never wants to see another such event.
Aid to hurricane survivors is coming not only from various governments, including those of the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, but also from neighboring countries, as well as from the tourism sector.
Melanie Roach, with the National Emergency Management Agency, said Thursday that about 100 people had been rescued on Abaco and that right now authorities are working to clear the roadways on Grand Bahama Island, which are covered with debris.
The private tourism sector, which is very important for the economy of the Bahamas, is also donating vital materials and supplies, including the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association, the Sandals Foundation - a luxury tourism chain - and various cruise lines, among others.
The problem continues to be getting aid to the entire area because of the closure of maritime ports on both islands, as well as the destruction of the airports.
The aid is being supplied and rescue efforts are under way using helicopters that are touching down at improvised landing sites such as baseball fields.
Pop singer Rihanna, who is from Barbados, as well as other well-known celebrities such as singer Lenny Kravitz have added their voices to the efforts to collect money for the beleaguered people of the Bahamas.
“Let’s help The Bahamas. I donated to National Association of the Bahamas, @COREResponse & @WCKitchen,” posted Kravitz on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Bahamas Paradise Cruise line announced the dispatch of one of its vessels to the Bahamas loaded with aid.
The ship will set sail from Palm Beach, Florida, with food, water, supplies and volunteers, as well as aid personnel.