Category-five Hurricane Dorian, the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the most powerful storm ever to strike the Bahamas, has made landfall, causing widespread devastation. The ‘life-threatening’ storm is reportedly conjuring winds of up to 175 mph (280 km/h), tearing off roofs, flipping cars over and driving severe floods as it travels slowly westward. Some estimates even suggest that the winds have reached 200 mph at times. The US states of North and South Carolina, Florida and Georgia have all declared states of emergency.
There is little information currently available with regards to casualties; dwellings and business places in the Bahamas are legally required to be able to withstand severe hurricanes, as they are a fairly regular occurrence in the area, and some residents did opt to stay in their homes, to the consternation of authorities. Many tourists, however, chose to evacuate on Friday in order to avoid the shutting down of airports. The northwestern islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco, which were the first to be hit, are very popular tourist destinations; tourism accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the nation’s GDP and as many as half of its jobs. And with some repairs from Hurricane Matthew, which struck in 2016, still ongoing, there are fears about what this new impact could mean for the industry – according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, 2017 saw a decrease of approximately 826,100 in the number of visitors heading to the Bahamas, with the devastation caused by Matthew likely a major contributing factor.
The country’s Tourism Ministry did, however, assure tourists that there was no need to flee Bahama’s capital, Nassau, or the nearby Paradise Island, as neither of these areas were likely to experience the worst of Dorian.
News outlets have reported that potentially thousands of UK tourists are still in the Bahamas, and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office have advised any nationals in the path of Dorian to monitor the progress of the storm and follow the instructions of local authorities, including any evacuation orders. Airlines are reviewing their schedules and cancelling flights where prudent.