Hurricane Dorian has struck the northern Bahamas as a catastrophic category 5 storm, its record 295km/h winds ripping off roofs and tearing down power lines as hundreds hunkered in schools, churches and other shelters.
Dorian hit land in Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands at 12.40pm local time on Sunday, and then made a second landfall near Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island at 2pm after authorities made last-minute pleas for those in low-lying areas to evacuate.
With its maximum sustained winds of 295km/h, it tied the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to come ashore, equalling the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, before the storms were named.
ABC News correspondent Marcus Moore, located in Marsh Harbour said the area has suffered “absolute devastation”.
“There really are no words. It is pure hell here,” he said.
Moore said roofs has been ripped off, trees were uprooted and vehicles had been overturned.
Florida fears ‘apocalyptic’ hurricane
Millions from Florida to the Carolinas kept a wary eye on the slow-moving Dorian amid indications it would veer sharply northeast after passing the Bahamas and track up the US southeast seaboard.
But authorities warned that even if its core did not make US landfall, the potent storm would likely hammer the coast with powerful winds and heavy surf.
Martin County on Florida’s southeast coast is preparing for the worst, with Sheriff William Synder saying the areas is “within 20 miles of an apocalyptic hurricane.”
If you're being told to evacuate and you don’t evacuate, you're taking the chance of a life time,” he said.
With gusts over 354km/h, Dorian was moving west at 11km/h.
Bahamas damage revealed on social media
Many took to social media to share chaotic footage from the Bahamas revealing the extent of the damage Dorian was causing.
Chef Jose Andres shared footage of himself outside being battered by strong winds and rain in Nassau.
Others shared video of high water levels and roofs which had been ripped off, with multiple videos of heavy destruction in Marsh Harbour.
One clip shows the roof of a petrol station swaying precariously as its blasted by strong winds.
Catastrophic conditions were reported in The Abaco Islands and the storm was expected to cross Grand Bahama later in the day "with all its fury", the National Hurricane Center said.
Dorian's power was second only to Hurricane Allen in 1980, with its 305km/h winds. That storm did not make landfall.
"It's going to be really, really bad for the Bahamas," Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said.
Fatal conditions in the Bahamas
In the northern stretches of the archipelago, hotels closed, residents boarded up homes and officials hired boats to move people to bigger islands.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis warned that "any who do not evacuate are placing themselves in extreme danger and can expect a catastrophic consequence".
Still, dozens ignored evacuation orders, officials said, despite the danger.
Assistant Police Commissioner Samuel Butler said the end could be fatal.
"We ask you, we beg you, we plead with you to get to a place of safety."
Bahamas radio station ZNS Bahamas reported that a mother and her child in central Grand Bahama called to say they were sheltering in a closet and seeking help from police.
Silbert Mills, owner of the Bahamas Christian Network, said trees and power lines were torn down in The Abaco Islands and some roads were impassable.
"The winds are howling like we've never, ever experienced before," said Mills, 59, who planned to ride out the hurricane with his family in the concrete home he built 41 years ago in central Abaco.
Among those refusing to leave were 32 people in Sweetings Cay, and a group that sought safety in Old Bahama Bay resort, which officials said was not safe.
Butler said officials were closing some roads with heavy equipment and warned that those on the other side would be stranded until Dorian passed. The government has opened 14 shelters across the Bahamas.
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