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Here's a thread on a few of the more harrowing stories @Reuters reporters heard from #Dorian survivors awaiting relief flights in Abaco, #Bahamas, Thursday into Friday:
1. Fritz Cerisier, in broken English & struggling with emotions, mistook me for an aid worker, asked if I could help his 5-yo son. The boy had been vomiting non-stop for 3 days, and Fritz, whose home was destroyed by #Dorian, could not see a doctor because Abaco is in ruins.
2. Fritz was alone with a sick 5-yo he could not help. His wife, injured in the hurricane, had already been transported off-island. I think Fritz and his son made the last flight out Thursday night, but I'm not sure.
3. Samuel Cornish, 29, fled his home when it simultaneously faced a flood from the front and a tornado from the back. He and his parents went to a neighbor's, only for that home to crumble around them too. So, they broke into an abandoned apartment and spent the night there.
4. Sam Smith, 25, found bodies after the storm, before she could even find food. The first, a drowned man, lay outside a decimated grocery store where Smith was seeking food for year 2-yo. The second was a coworker, whom she found drowned near his home. #Dorian #Bahamas #Abaco
5. The common thread was the smell. The constant stench of death, especially in Marsh Harbour. "You smell it when you walk near the clinics," said Smith. #Bahamas #Dorian #Abaco
6. The gov't's death toll, 30 as of this writing, will certainly rise, but by how much? Locals predict hundreds. "I've worked at a funeral parlor, I know what death smells like," said Anthony Thompson, 27. "There must be hundreds of dead in Marsh Harbour." #Dorian #Abaco #bahamas
7. David Webb & his BF, Kendal Strickland, quit their jobs months ago to sail, but #Dorian rendered their boat unusable. They needed a flight, but were traveling with man's best friend(s): pit bull Bridge, and this 2-yo cat, Arya. Pilots were telling them they wouldn't take pets.
8. Arya was showing signs of panic, so David wrapped her in a pillowcase to keep her cool, and calm. "We might be screwed, but we're not leaving our pets," David said. I'm hoping they got out. #Dorian
9. So what was everyone doing at Treasure Cay Airport on Thursday? Most were trying to leave Abaco, either through charters, relief flights or seats on @BahamasAir.
10. @BahamasAir, a quasi-government airline in the #Bahamas, was transporting people off Abaco -- but not for free. Its mission was to honor those who'd had flights canceled due to #Dorian. They'd take others too, but were asking $75 per seat.
11. This angered locals & may have contributed to rumors that tourists are being prioritized over locals. I found no evidence to confirm this rumor on a wide scale, but it's reasonable to wonder why the gov't was asking for $ from its own evacuees. #Dorian #Bahamas #Abaco
12. Also frustrating to some: no one was "in charge" at the airport. Flights came in w/ supplies, left w/ passengers. The military was there to keep peace. But there was no gov't official coordinating, setting schedules, explaining what was happening etc. #Bahamas #Dorian
13. And when I say "airport," I mean: open field of debris. There was no "inside." The buildings were gone. The roofs lay like beached whales on the ground. There was no shade. There were no bathrooms, except the woods. And people were spending all day there. #Dorian #Abaco
14. Where things got hairy: Some people didn't make the last @BahamasAir flight. Others had issues w/ their charters, @Reuters included. This was a big theme, private pilots being paid to pick people up, but failing to arrive, mostly due to inability to get flight clearance.
15. Landing space was limited due to #Dorian's flooding, so airports faced backlogs. Charters would sit on the runway for hours waiting their turn, but faced a ticking clock because...
16. Treasure Cay Airport has no lights & can't accommodate late flights. If you weren't airborne by sunset, you weren't leaving. With people's homes mostly destroyed, many of those stranded would have to sleep in their cars, or on the ground. #Dorian #Bahamas #Abaco
17. For the @Reuters crew, it meant the ground. We had sleeping bags and a tent from the supply shed. The sunset was kind of apocalyptic.
18. It was...not a comfortable night. And we didn't really sleep at all. But we did bond with this couple whose pilot hadn’t made it. The dog's name is Tuxedo.
19. This was our tent. We sat around a flashlight, stuck close. There'd been reports of looting/violence, and those of us stranded were basically alone. The military & police had gone home (let that sink in). Two security guards remained, but it felt a bit thin. #Dorian #Bahamas
20. In the morning, the crowds reemerged. Airport was packed again by 6:30, for a new round of waiting, a new set of promised flights. #Dorian #Bahamas
21. Our charter came early, and we filled our extra seats with four members of a family whose homes were lost. They were 12 people, but decided to split up. These 4 would go to Nassau and find a place to live, the others would stay back and await word. #Dorian #Abaco
22. When you have no cell service, splitting up means an indefinite parting. Not easy. But in desperate times, this family did it quickly, with little debate.
23. On the flight, 3K feet over the Caribbean Sea, they fretted about the future. Nassau is already overpopulated, said 22-yo Paul Manochka. "We might have to go to another island, but the other islands don't have jobs. Abaco was it. Abaco was the place everyone went." #Dorian
24. The phrase I heard a lot, about #Dorian's affect on #Abaco, was "There's nothing left." Variations thereon: "It's flattened." "It has simply vanished." "There is no community there." And it's true. The destruction is absolute. It needs to be evacuated.
25. There is so much more to say, but I'll wrap up with this:
26. People in #Abaco don't just lack water/power. They lack the fundamental building blocks of autonomous life: Places of commerce. Medical institutions. Ways to make money. Places to live, sleep. None of that is there right now. #Dorian took it all. The #Bahamas needs help.
27. Crucial update to a topic that had angered many: Yes, @bahamasair was charging evacuees $75 to get on relief flights. PM Minnis has ordered that to end, a gov't official announced. Future flights are free. Unclear if folks will be reimbursed for past flights. #Dorian #Bahamas
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