Cars sit submerged in water from Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Bahamas, on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. A larger but weakened Hurricane Dorian began lashing the east coast of central Florida late on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Cars sit submerged in water from Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Bahamas, on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. A larger but weakened Hurricane Dorian began lashing the east coast of central Florida late on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Weakened Dorian begins lashing Florida as death toll in Bahamas rises to seven

By By Gretel Johnston And Shabtai Gold Time of article published Sep 4, 2019

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Washington/Vero Beach - A larger but weakened

Hurricane Dorian began lashing the east coast of central Florida late

on Tuesday as it picked up speed after stalling over the Bahamas for

two days causing at least seven deaths and catastrophic damage.

Dorian became a Category 2 hurricane as its strongest winds dropped

to 175 kilometres per hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center

(NHC), but the storm also grew in size, with hurricane-force winds

extending about 95 kilometres from its centre.

It also picked up speed, to about 9 kilometers per hour, after

sitting nearly stationary over the Bahamas since making landfall

there on Sunday as a category 5 hurricane, the NHC said in its 8 pm

(0000 GMT Wednesday) update.

The storm's shift in direction earlier on Tuesday means Florida most

likely will be spared a direct hit, the NHC forecast said.

"On this track, the core of Hurricane Dorian will move dangerously

close to the Florida east coast and the Georgia coast tonight through

Wednesday night, the advisory said, adding that Dorian was forecast

to "move near or over" the coast of South and North Carolina Thursday

through Friday morning.

Tropical storm conditions were expected to continue "for a few more

hours" on Grand Bahama Island, though subsiding water levels there

and on the Abaco Islands were expected to be accompanied by large and

destructive waves near the coast.

The northern islands of the Bahamas have suffered the brunt of the

massive storm so far. At least seven people have died and more than

13,000 houses have been severely damaged or destroyed by the

hurricane, officials said.

In a press conference late on Tuesday, Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert

Minnis said that the death toll rose from five to seven after two of

25 people transported to New Providence Island died.

"We can expect more deaths," Minnis said, adding that the current

numbers were based on preliminary information after a initial

assessment of Abaco Island, which also found "severe damage of homes,

businesses, other buildings and infrastructure."

The prime minister added that an initial assessment of Grand Bahama

Island will be carried out as soon as the Met office gives the "all

clear."

Some 60,200 people on Grand Bahama and Abaco may require food aid

according to preliminary estimates, UN World Food Programme spokesman

Herve Verhoosel said.

The hurricane unleashed massive flooding and fierce winds on the

islands, tearing down power lines and ripping roofs off homes.

Residents in Florida meanwhile have been lying in wait for the

slow-moving storm over the past two days, and preparing for a storm

surge of up to 2 metres.

"I've been prepared since Sunday. I followed my plan," said Patrick

Studer, who put boards over the windows in his house and got food,

water and a generator ready.

Noting Dorian's slow speed, he said he had to get out Tuesday to keep

from feeling crazy while cooped up inside his home in Indian County,

but told dpa: "Now it looks like we are almost through this, unless

something dramatic happens. We'll see tomorrow."

The native of central Florida said his advice to people who are not

used to hurricanes is: "If you ain't prepared, get the hell out,

now."

Another Florida resident, John Jupa, was with his wife buying bottled

water at a shop near Vero Beach as they prepared to hunker down until

the storm passes.

"We've been waiting and waiting for the storm, but now it looks like

it is really coming in. Hopefully this will all be over by tomorrow,"

he told dpa, describing himself as "totally ready" having stockpiled

water, food and propane gas for cooking inside his "very solid"

house.

Jupa said he is most concerned about the storm surges, which are not

like normal waves and can "destroy everything in their way,"

including cars and houses. "They are so powerful," he said.

The NHC's storm surge warning extends to an area of coastline about

910 kilometres long, from south-east Florida to the middle of North

Carolina.

Authorities in Florida, concerned about looting, said that some areas

will put curfews into effect on Tuesday night. There also is concern

about power outages caused by downed trees.

Orlando's airport was closed and many flights in and out of other

major Florida airports were affected, according to flightaware.com.

Dorian's centre at 8 pm was about 180 kilometres east of Cape

Canaveral, Florida, the NHC said.

dpa

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