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article imageBahamas battens down for Hurricane Dorian

By Gemma Handy (AFP)     Aug 30, 2019 in World

Residents in the Bahamas rushed to prepare as "extremely dangerous" Hurricane Dorian barreled toward the island chain Friday, with government offices on lockdown and thousands told to evacuate their homes.

Currently a Category 4 storm, Dorian was packing winds near 130 miles per hour (215 kilometers per hour) by Friday evening and was expected to make landfall in the Bahamas -- a major tourist destination -- on Sunday.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis issued an evacuation order for the Abaco islands and parts of Grand Bahama, warning residents not to be "foolish" by trying to "brave out" the hurricane.

"The price you may pay for not evacuating is your life," Minnis said.

Flights were being increased to enable residents to vacate the northwestern-lying isles, with more than 150 hurricane shelters, predominantly churches and schools, made available.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that life-threatening storm surge could raise water levels by as much as 10 to 15 feet (three to 4.5 meters) above normal tide levels in the northwestern Bahamas.

Lucy Worboys, who lives with her husband and two young children in Nassau, New Providence, 120 miles (200 kilometers) south of Grand Bahama, has experienced several storms in recent years, including one that saw the roof partially ripped from her home.

"We are just thinking -- could this one be crazy, or could it be nothing," she told AFP. "The gas stations and supermarkets are packed with people right now."

Worboys said her children's return from school break has already been pushed back from Monday to Wednesday, possibly Thursday.

"We were told it was just going to be a storm but are now realizing it might be a bit more serious," said Worboys, who is originally from Britain but has been living in the Bahamas for 12 years.

"The tide is incredibly high at the moment so people are very concerned about sea surges as the Bahamas is so flat. We have secured our boat, we have a standby generator and we will probably put up our hurricane shutters tomorrow."

"Everyone is just waiting for the next report."

- Out of harm's way -

Hurricane conditions were likely to be felt in the islands as early as Saturday.

Some meteorological experts feared Dorian might stall close to Grand Bahama on Sunday night, causing a prolonged period of heavy rainfall which, coupled with hurricane-force winds, could prove disastrous.

Dale Destin, of the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Services, said Northern Bahamas "has the potential to receive catastrophic damage from major Hurricane Dorian."

The Firefly Sunset Resort in Elbow Cay is set to close Saturday until at least Tuesday, having ferried its guests out of harm's way before the storm's impact, managing partner Lorenzo Barigelli told AFP.

"As a small cay, we keep a close watch on the tropics and any weather-related concerns daily, for the safety of our guests and employees," he said.

"Our team went into action preparing our villas and cottages immediately, boarding up Firefly Bar and Grill, removing any type of everyday objects that could be projectiles and more."

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