BAHAMAS– The most powerful storm to hit the Caribbean islands of the Bahamas since records began has torn roofs from buildings and caused severe flooding.
Hurricane Dorian, a category five storm, has sustained winds of up to 180mph (285km/h).
A “life-threatening” storm surge of 23ft (7m) is also predicted in places, officials warn.
The hurricane is moving slowly westwards and may hit areas of the eastern US seaboard.
The US states of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina have all declared states of emergency.
Areas of the Abaco islands were reported to be underwater after the storm hit the Bahamas’ Elbow Cay soon after midday (16:00 GMT) on Sunday.
The storm also battered Grand Bahama island with high winds and torrential rainfall.
Bahamas residents posted footage showing floodwaters engulfing some homes after high winds had torn their roofs off. Videos also show capsized boats floating in floodwaters filled with debris.
Dorian is expected to continue to move over Grand Bahama Island into Monday.
It is then due to move closer to Florida’s east coast late on Monday and through to Tuesday night local time.
On Sunday, US National Hurricane Center (NHC) director Ken Graham said the Bahamas would be under major hurricane conditions for 10 hours or more.
Authorities closed some airports in the outlying islands, but the main international airport remained open on Sunday.
Hurricanes, which vary in strength from category one to five on the Saffir-Simpson scale, tend to get stronger as they move over warm waters like those off the coast of Florida.
Dorian has also grown larger in size, with hurricane-force winds currently extending 45 miles (75km) from the storm’s centre.
How did the Bahamas prepare?
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced an evacuation order for parts of Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands, both in the north of the archipelago. All tourists were asked to leave the islands.
Mr Minnis was visibly upset as he addressed a news conference on Sunday.
“This is probably the most sad and worst day of my life,” he said, calling Dorian a “monster storm”.
“We’re facing a hurricane… one that we’ve never seen in the history of the Bahamas,” the prime minister added.
SOURCE: BBC NEWS