Authorities fear Hurricane Dorian’s death toll will shoot up by 2,500 as people are still missing across the devastated Bahamas.
The Caribbean nation’s toll currently stands at just 50 people more than a week after the category 5 storm hammered its islands for more than a day.
But Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said the number ‘is expected to significantly increase’ as bodies are discovered in the wreckage of hundreds of thousands of homes.
In a town on Abaco, one of the hardest-hit areas, some 90 per cent of buildings are thought to have been damaged or destroyed.
Clara Bain, 38, a tour guide, said: ‘My friends are missing, a few of my cousins are missing over there, five in total.
‘Everyone on the islands are missing someone, it’s really devastating.’
More than 5,000 people fled Abaco to go to New Providence, the island where the capital, Nassau, is located.
Large tent cities are being put up to house those made homeless by the storm.
But officials said the list of missing people had not yet been checked against records of those displaced.
The number of people asking to be relocated has fallen significantly, though some 15,000 are still in need of shelter or food, they added.
Dorian, which hit the Bahamas on 1 September, was one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes to ever make a direct hit on land, with winds of up to 200 mph.
Prime minister Minnis yesterday said: ‘Our sympathies go out to the families of each person who died.
‘Let us pray for them during this time of grief. We offer you our shoulders to cry on. You will never be forgotten.’
He thanked the US for its support and urged Bahamians to pitch in by volunteering or donating money to charities.
The US has said people fleeing the Bahamas after the hurricane will not be given temporary protected immigration status, which would have allowed them to live and work in America while their country recovers.
Private firms estimate Hurricane Dorian destroyed or damaged some $3 billion (£2.4 billion) in insured property across the Caribbean.
Flights to Abaco resumed on a limited basis yesterday.