JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hurricane Dorian devastated the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands in the northern part of the archipelago a week ago, leaving at least 50 dead, with the toll certain to rise as the search for bodies goes on.
"Everybody here on this island alone says it's easily more than 200," News4Jax anchor and reporter Vic Micolucci said by phone as he traveled with medical volunteers focused on saving lives as conditions get worse.
Tuesday afternoon, Micolucci grabbed his photographer gear and board a plane for the Abacos. There was only room for one alongside medical volunteers traveling to the center of the destruction from Hurricane Dorian.
"Well, we're about as close to ground zero as we can get right now. We're in Marsh Harbour," Micolucci said. "We have doctors and nurses with us. We have insulin. We have diabetes medication. We have sanitary supplies. We have shoes because people need closed-toe shoes. We have cots and blankets, and the plane is potentially going to bring back some Bahamians that need to be evacuated."
Micolucci said conditions are horrific in the Abacos. He described going to the general aviation side of the airport, where heartbroken survivors simply wait.
"First of all, inside it's hot. It's muggy. There are flies. The smell is abominable," Micolucci said. "You have families, people of all ages -- from children to elderly people in wheelchairs with special needs -- all just waiting, hoping that their name gets called, that they can find a way out. They describe horrific heartbreak like you couldn't imagine."
Medical volunteers have been delivering care and medications on a daily basis. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the Sunshine State is delivering aid, too, and one of the most precious commodities to the devastated islands.
"You have ten of these trucks, they’re gonna be filled with water from the Department of Emergency Management, and nine additional from Florida Power & Light," DeSantis said Tuesday. "This is a huge amount of water. It’s going to be sent to Nassau, where the government is staging most of the relief efforts."
As relief efforts continue, nearly 5,000 people have arrived in Nassau by plane and by boat, and many were struggling to start new lives, unclear of how or where to begin. More than 2,000 of them were staying in shelters, according to government figures.
Government officials said they were helping all evacuees and considering building temporary housing, perhaps tent or container cities.
"We are dealing with a disaster,'' said Carl Smith, spokesman for the Bahamas' National Emergency Management Agency. "It takes time to move through the chaos. We are responding to the needs.''
The government has estimated that up to 10,000 people from the Abacos alone will need food, water and temporary housing.
"People here are incredibly strong and until you wear their shoes and walk a mile in their shoes, you won't know what it's like. People are finding a way," Micolucci said. "They're banding together. They're living off whatever they can live off of."