Hurricane Dorian devastates the Bahamas

Hurricane Dorian devastates the Bahamas

Our emergency response team is on the ground, working tirelessly to help survivors and meet the needs of families and communities affected by this devastating storm.

Quick facts: Hurricane Dorian's devastating effect on the Bahamas

Last updated: September 16, 2019

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  • damage to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian
    An aerial view of the damage in the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. PHOTO: Christy Delafield/Mercy Corps Photo: damage to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian is the strongest hurricane on record to have hit the Bahamas — and one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record.

The Sept. 2019 storm caused extensive flooding that damaged homes and infrastructure on the northwest islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, as well as widespread power outages.

The death toll in the Bahamas has risen to 50 people. It's expected to rise further — 1,300 people are missing, acccording to the country's National Emergency Management Agency. The UN says more than 70,000 people on Abaco and Grand Bahama need lifesaving assistance.

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The Bahamas is comprised of 700 islands sprinkled over 100,000 square miles of ocean. The archipelago is home to nearly 400,000 people. It could be days or even weeks before we know the full extent of the damage.

Our team is surveying the affected islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama and is distributing solar lanterns.

Learn more about Hurricane Dorian and find out how you can help people recover:

When did Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas?

Hurricane Dorian originated in the Atlantic Ocean in late August. It made landfall on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at Elbow Cay, on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas.

How powerful was Hurricane Dorian when it hit the Bahamas?

Hurricane Dorian was the strongest hurricane on record to hit the Bahamas. Once it made landfall, it hovered over the country — sometimes moving at just 1 mph — for more than 48 hours. All the while, it caused storm surges and wind damage, decimating parts of the archipelago.

What are the Bahamas like after Hurricane Dorian?


Hurricane Dorian devastated Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands, two locations where the eye of the storm made landfall. While normal commercial flights are slowing resuming, the main airport terminal on Grand Bahama is destroyed. Roads are littered with debris and downed trees, and there are limited supplies of fuel. Reaching the islands remains incredibly difficult, even for first responders and emergency personnel.

The death toll has risen to 50 people, with more expected in the coming days. 1,300 people are missing, acccording to the country's National Emergency Management Agency.

More than 70,000 people on Abaco and Grand Bahama need lifesaving assistance, according to the UN.

post-Hurricane Dorian destruction in High Rock on Grand BahamaHurricane Dorian destroyed many homes in High Rock in Grand Bahama. PHOTO: Marjie Sackett/Mercy Corps

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Abaco Islands are the most severely affected. Thousands of homes have been destroyed, along with wells and roads. The most impacted areas were primarily inhabited by vulnerable, undocumented migrant populations. In Grand Bahama, satellite data suggests that 76 to 100 percent of buildings in some areas have been destroyed.

Electricity is down in almost all of the island, and cell phone service coming back up but can be unreliable. Storm surge and flooding destroyed many people’s vehicles, making it difficult for them to come to central locations to receive supplies, and trucks or other vehicles to take goods to communities are also in short supply.

This week was scheduled to be the first week of school in the Bahamas. Many families affected by the hurricane had just paid school fees and purchased school uniforms, but have now lost them.

What do people need most after a hurricane?

a Mercy Corps team member demonstrates how to use a water filtration system in Puerto RicoMercy Corps team member Karla Peña, left, demonstrates a water filtration system in Puerto Rico. She is also responding to Hurricane Dorian. PHOTO: Angel Valentin for Mercy Corps

a Mercy Corps team member prepares to board a helicopter to the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas after Hurricane DorianMercy Corps team member Karla Peña waits on the tarmac in Nassau, Bahamas to board a helicopter to the Abaco Islands. PHOTO: Christy Delafield/Mercy Corps

We know from our response in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria that people will need electricity alternatives as companies work to restore power, especially in remote areas. They’ll also need access to temporary shelter, clean water and food.

We’re hearing that wells on the affected islands were completely inundated with sea water so safe, clean drinking water will be a critical priority.

"With so many groups and organizations on the ground, we have to be sure we're not overlapping efforts," says Karla Peña, Puerto Rico director and responder in the Bahamas.

"In Puerto Rico, we worked with local organizations who were able to take us to communities that had gotten no help at all yet, even long after the storm. That's what I'm focused on, talking with local Bahamian groups so we can get the deeper story on what is happening and where people are who are most in need. If you don't have anyone local in the conversation, you won't know who hasn't been reached."

As the impacts of climate change continue to compound, extreme storms like these will grow in intensity and frequency — and they will particularly affect communities that are already living in vulnerable situations. People in the Bahamas will need long-term support to recover from this hurricane and help them prepare for and build resilience to future storms.

How is Mercy Corps helping?


Our team is surveying the affected islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama and is distributing solar lanterns. We are committed to reaching 3,000 families with emergency kits which include: mosquito nets, tarps, jerry cans, chlorine tablets to purify water, and rope.

There’s clearly going to be a lot of need," says Jill Morehead, Mercy Corps' emergency response team leader. "So it’s really prioritizing what needs to happen first, second, third. Right now, what we’re talking about is food, drinking water and shelter. Those are the three main things. The electrical infrastructure has also been really damaged."

We purchased supplies that were locally available in Nassau for some of our initial deliveries, including jugs of water, canned food and other essentials.

Mercy Corps team members distribute water in Freeport, BahamasMercy Corps team members distribute hundreds of bottles of water in Freeport in the Bahamas. PHOTO: Christy Delafield/Mercy Corps

Getting to the islands and then making our way to the affected communities remains very challenging. While normal commercial flights are slowing resuming, the main airport terminal on Grand Bahama is destroyed.

As we access the more hard-hit areas of the affected islands, our team is distributing solar lanterns equipped with USB chargers so that people can charge essential devices, given the extensive electrical blackouts. Solar lanterns provide people with greater safety and security as they move about after dark. Having the ability to charge phones will enable people to reach out to emergency services, get notices from authorities, learn about distributions of emergency supplies and contact their loved ones.

We have distributed 100 solar lanterns so far, including 40 to a healthcare center in Marsh Harbor, 30 to a hospital in Freeport and, through a local organization called Hands for Hunger, 30 lanterns to the smaller affected island of Little Abaco. We have another 500 solar lanterns that we are bringing to the Bahamas.

So far, communities are telling us their most pressing needs are clean water, shelter, basic household items, and in some cases, evacuation to another island. Our team is meeting with emergency managers and other responding organizations to coordinate our response efforts and mobilize supplies.

How can I help survivors in the Bahamas?

a Mercy Corps team member distributing food in Puerto Rico after Hurricane MariaA Mercy Corps team member distributing cooked food in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. We delivered aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and continue to help people rebuild and prepare for future disasters. PHOTO: Ernesto Robles for Mercy Corps

The best and fastest way to help people in the Bahamas is by donating. Financial donations to organizations like Mercy Corps ensure that the right kind of aid can get to people quickest and most efficiently.

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You can also support our work in the Bahamas by downloading a newly released R.E.M. song. Sales proceeds and donations will go directly to Mercy Corps' relief and recovery efforts in the Bahamas.