Freeport, Grand Bahama (CNN) – What used to be islands of paradise across the northern Bahamas are now scenes of widespread destruction.
Hurricane Dorian situated itself over the islands as a Category 5 storm for two days, delivering wind speeds of over 185 mph, relentless rain, and storm surge. It was the strongest storm on record to impact the country.
The only airport on the island of Grand Bahama has been ripped apart by Dorian.
“After two days of trying, we’re finally able to get into the Freeport airport,” CNN’s Patrick Oppmann said from the scene Wednesday.
“It’s gone. … The level of devastation is actually breathtaking. There are no walls left at the airport. The ceiling has come crashing.”
The airport’s obliteration deals a devastating blow for residents who desperately need medical evacuations or emergency aid.
“The runway field is now a debris field,” Oppmann said.
Now that Dorian has finally pulled away from the islands and moved northwar, Bahamians are finally seeing sunlight again.
“Nothing compares to what we went through the past two days,” survivor Michael Hynes said. “Almost 48 hours now with nonstop carnage.
At least seven people, including an 8-year-old boy, have been confirmed dead. The number of fatalities will likely rise in the coming days and weeks following.
“We can expect more deaths to be recorded,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said. “Our priority is search, rescue and recovery.”
Volunteers are rushing to rescue trapped residents and deliver aid.
“There is tremendous human suffering,” storm chaser Josh Morgerman said. “These people really need help. They’ve lost everything.”
Swaths of Grand Bahama now look like ravaged wastelands.
Injured residents cannot reach one hospital because it is blocked by submerged cars.
Not only is the airport in ruins, a road leading up to it has been replaced by a river of floodwater.
Between Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands, about 60,000 people may be in dire need of food relief, the World Food Programme said.
The US Coast Guard has conducted 61 rescues in the Bahamas so far and is doing aerial surveys, Rear Adm. Doug Fears told reporters during a FEMA conference call Wednesday.
Even new homes built under more stringent building codes were destroyed, said Brandon Clement, who shot footage of the destruction from a helicopter.
“You can’t tell that there are any homes there,” he said. “It looks like a bunch of building materials were put in a big grinder and thrown on the ground.”
The Abaco Islands suffered massive destruction, the Prime Minister said, with 60% of homes in the town of Marsh Harbor damaged.