ABACO ISLANDS, Bahamas — As Hurricane Dorian takes aim at the Carolinas, survivors in the Bahamas are sharing stories of living through its terror earlier this week.
“I thought I was going to die,” Jim Bell told NBC News. “The house landed on top of me.”
Bell is from Delray Beach, Florida, and lives on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas.
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Health Minister Duane Sands told NBC News on Thursday that at least 30 deaths on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands have been blamed on Dorian since it made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane with 185 mph winds on Sunday and stalled for about two days.
“I certainly believe, based on the findings in the field, that the number will rise dramatically,” Sands told NBC News on Thursday night.
Bell said he was trapped on the floor of his home for around two hours before he was able to free himself and crawl to a shed.
“I’m banged up, but I’m all right,” he said. “I was an hour-and-half, two hours in that rubble in 185 [mph winds]. And I crawled out.”
Donnie Carey, who also lives on Abaco, said he and his wife had to flee their home and go to a friend’s house. The 75-year-old said a storm surge that he estimated at around 25 feet sent water “bursting in the bottom of the house.”
He said he feared he and wife would drown if they did not leave.
“The roof started to peel off,” he said. “It was unbelievable.”
The number of deaths in the Bahamas is expected to climb as rescue operations begin, the country’s health minister said.
Several aid organizations, such as Direct Relief and World Central Kitchen, had already arrived by Thursday to help those who may need medical care and to provide food and clean drinking water.
An initial assessment shows that nearly 75,000 people in the country may be in need of medical aid, said Direct Relief’s president, Andrew MacCalla. The International Red Cross said the hurricane wiped out much of parts of the water supply, leaving roughly 62,000 people on Abaco and Grand Bahama without clean water.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations and the U.S Coast Guard have also been providing relief.
One family who said they sought safety in a bomb shelter expressed relief at seeing U.S. Border Protection teams arriving on the island.
“They’re lifesavers,” the wife told NBC. “Thank you so much, we love you.”
“We made it, we lived,” her husband added.
Even celebrities are offering aid. On Monday, “Real Housewives of New York” star Bethenny Frankel traveled to the Bahamas with her organization B Strong to donate supplies. Singer Rihanna’s organization, Clara Lionel Foundation, said it is deploying two emergency response grants to the World Central Kitchen, founded by celebrity chef José Andres, and Direct Relief.
In an Instagram post on Tuesday, rapper Ludacris said he raised over $100,000 from his LudaDay Weekend event and the proceeds “will go to helping the relief fund” in the Bahamas.
Sanders reported from Abaco Islands, Burke from New York.
Kerry Sanders is a Miami-based correspondent for NBC News, covering national and international breaking news and feature stories. He contributes regularly to “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt,” “Today” and MSNBC. His work, including reporting on Hurricane Katrina, Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, the Chilean miners and Kosovo have earned him multiple awards.