Cruise lines continue to aid the relief effort in the Bahamas following destruction wreaked by Hurricane Dorian, as the nation’s health minister warned of a "staggering" death toll.
Dorian hit northern Bahamas as a category four storm on Sunday (1 September) – with winds of up to 185mph battering the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama for two days before moving towards the US.
The official death toll currently stands at 30, but is expected to rise further.
The International Red Cross fears 45% of homes on Grand Bahama and the Abacos – around 13,000 properties – were severely damaged or destroyed and some 70,000 people to be in need of "immediate need" of aid, according to UN officials.
Bahamas prime minister Hubert Minnis called Dorian’s impact “one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history”, while health minister Duane Sands said he believed the storm’s final death toll would rise substantially.
“Let me say that I believe the number will be staggering,” he told local radio. “I have never lived through anything like this and I don’t want to live through anything like this again. The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering.”
Now downgraded to a category one hurricane, Dorian has reached the coasts of South and North Carolina, leaving thousands of homes without power and led to mass evacuation warnings.
The US National Hurricane Center said at 23:00 local time today (03:00 GMT) Dorian was 35 miles (60km) south of Wilmington and moving north-east at about 13mph with winds continuing to weaken.
In the aftermath of Dorian, a number of cruise companies have pledged their support to the Bahamas to help with recovery efforts.
Shipping giant MSC Group, parent of MSC Cruises, became the latest to join the cause in the region, promising to provide temporary shelters to people left homeless as well as making its ships available for relief cargo from the US to the Freeport and Marsh Harbour (Abaco) container terminals.
Royal Caribbean has begun redeploying its ships to tender outside of Freeport carrying goods and meals with operations beginning with Empress of the Seas delivering 10,000 meals and 10,000 bottles of water.
The company is also sending container ships with emergency supplies including 47,000 bottles of water, 362 generators, 250 tarpaulins, 25,000 square feet of plywood, 55,000 nappies and 7,500 pounds of pet food.
Carnival Cruise Line is to divert the ships Carnival Pride and Carnival Liberty next week to deliver food, water and relief supplies in addition to an agreement to run shipments of aid by container ship.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has so far raised around $24,000 through its CTO Relief Fund.
“The damage caused by the forces of this monstrous storm is an important example of why we must do whatever is possible to provide financial relief to those who need it most,” the CTO said on its fundraising page.
In Florida, major attractions in Orlando – Walt Disney World Parks, Universal Studios Resort and Sea World Parks – have all resumed operations along with the city’s airport.
Visit Orlando said: “Hurricane Dorian has passed Orlando with minimal impact and theme parks are operating as normal. The destination has a history of businesses and agencies working together to quickly resume operations after a storm, and its inland location often results in less overall impact from coastal storms.”