Spared from the worst of Dorian, people in South Florida have been donating water, food and household supplies.
Floridians showed up in droves Tuesday to give cans of food, bottles of water and boxes of diapers to members of two historically black churches that were sorting the items before flying them to the devastated Abacos and Grand Bahama Island.
“We have to channel all that anxiety into something positive,” relief coordinator Jonathan Archer said.
Archer is the former head of a parish in Long Island, Bahamas, and current rector of the Christ Episcopal Church in Miami’s historic Coconut Grove neighborhood. Many of that community’s first settlers hailed from the Bahamas.
Some of the volunteers were frantically trying to text cousins, uncles, aunts and nieces who’d braved the powerful storm in their island homes. Few had any luck Tuesday.
“I am grateful that we weren’t hit but the severity of the damage in Abaco and Freeport just breaks my heart,” said Diane Alexander, a 57-year-old retired teacher who has cousins in Nassau.
Alexander bought provisions for Dorian, then decided to donate them when the storm no longer threatened a direct hit on Florida.
Practically parking over a portion of the Bahamas for a day and a half, Dorian pounded the islands with winds up to 185 mph and torrential rain, ripping apart homes, trapping people in their attics and killing at least 20 people.
Government officials said Wednesday they expected the death toll to rise.
Florida State Rep. Shevrin Jones, who was asking people to donate, said one of his extended relatives is an officer with the Bahamas immigration agency who’d been working as a first responder. Jones tweeted a screenshot of a WhatsApp message he received from the relative, who said she and her rescue team had found family members curled up together, all of them dead.
Helping to collect supplies was Elvrern Ross, a native of Nassau, Bahamas, and a member of the Greater St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Coconut Grove, one of the institutions seeking donations. Ross spoke of an uncle and aunt with young children who did not want to evacuate their home in Marsh Harbour, where storm surge was reported at 18 to 23 feet. She has not been able to reach them.
“I wanted to volunteer to take my mind off all that stuff that is going on there,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.