The official death toll of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas has risen to 20 people with officials certain the number will continue to rise, the prime minister, Hubert Minnis, announced as he declared a “historic tragedy” on the archipelago.
At a press conference late on Wednesday the prime minister also warned of reports of looting on the Abaco Islands, a northern band of islands in the Bahamas hardest hit by Dorian, which pummelled the area as a slow moving category 5 hurricane over the weekend.
Minnis, who had recently returned from a flyover of the Abacos, warned of “generational devastation” in the northern region of the Bahamas that also includes Grand Bahama, the archipelago’s northernmost island.
As Minnis confirmed the number of dead he cautioned: “we expect that this number will increase”.
“We ask you to pray for the families and loved ones deceased,” the prime minister added.
Large parts of the Abaco Islands have remained inaccessible to rescue crews, who continue to prioritize emergency evacuations, meaning the full scale of devastation caused by the hurricane is still not completely clear.
Mark Lowcock, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, told the Guardian that the agency estimates around 70,000 people in the northern Bahamas remain in need of relief assistance.