At least seven people are confirmed to have died in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc on the island nation.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said the country can “expect more deaths”, and said parts of the Abaco Islands had been “decimated” by the storm.
The hurricane has finally moved away from the Bahamas after causing widespread destruction.
Latest reports say the storm is moving parallel to the coast of Florida.
Although Hurricane Dorian has weakened to a category two storm it has grown larger in area, and has maximum sustained winds of 110mph (177km/h).
What did the prime minister say?
Mr Minnis held a press conference after he and a delegation of other politicians and officials conducted an initial assessment of the damage to the Abaco Islands.
The archipelago lies east of Grand Bahama and was hit hard by the arrival of Hurricane Dorian as a category five storm over the weekend.
“Parts of Abaco are decimated,” the prime minister said, reporting there had been “severe flooding and severe damage” to homes, businesses and infrastructure – with the area around the airport now looking “like a lake”.
The north of the island – including the town of Marsh Harbor – was more badly affected than the south, he said.
Opposition leader Philip Brave Davis described the scenes from a flight over the island as a “horrible sight”.
No hurricane had ever made landfall with greater wind speeds in the Bahamas, and thousands of people have called for help to escape rising flood waters and buildings torn to pieces by the savage winds.
“Our priority at this time is search rescue and recovery,” Mr Minnis said. “It will take all of us as a caring community – government, church, businesses and individuals – to help restore the lives of our people.”
He praised first responders and the “bravery and fortitude” of his fellow citizens, stressing that more food and supplies are ready for distribution once the weather settles.
Where is the storm now?
At 03:00 GMT, the National Hurricane Centre said Dorian was centred about 200km (125 miles) north of Grand Bahama and about 130km off Florida’s coastal town of Titusville.
It is moving north-northwest at 9km/h (6mph) and is forecast to quicken slightly and turn north-northeast.
Hurricane warnings in the Bahamas will be discontinued, but the country remains under tropical storm warnings – with an all-clear not expected until Wednesday morning. Storm surges are expected to subside, an official from the Bahamas weather agency said.
The NHC said Dorian would still move “dangerously close” to the Florida and Georgia coasts through Wednesday night, then the coasts of the Carolinas through Friday morning.
The hurricane is expected to remain at the same strength over the next two days.
Is climate change making hurricanes worse?
Scientists cannot say whether climate change is increasing the number of hurricanes, but the ones that do happen are likely to be more powerful and more destructive because of our warming climate, said BBC Weather’s Tomasz Schafernaker.
- An increase in sea surface temperatures strengthens the wind speeds within storms and also raises the amount of precipitation a hurricane will dump
- Sea levels are expected to increase by one to four feet over the next century, bringing the potential of far worse damage from sea surges and coastal flooding during storms