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Bahamas surveys Frances' damage

People in the Bahamas emerged Sunday to survey the damage left by Hurricane Frances.
Ronique Roberts stands in front of her hurricane-damaged house in the seaside neighborhood of Queen's Cove in Freeport, Bahamas, on Sunday.Andres Leighton / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Bahamians emerged Sunday from 48 hours of roaring winds and severe flooding to witness the destruction left by Hurricane Frances: wrecked homes and collapsed roofs, yards littered with mangled trees.

The hurricane left at least two people dead and one missing, and officials said they feared the death toll could rise. The northern island of Grand Bahama appeared particularly hard-hit, with several neighborhoods flooded, fallen trees blocking roads and severed power lines hidden amid debris.

Violent winds destroyed a wall at Gary Roberts’ home, where waters rushed in shoulder-deep, ruining furniture and mattresses.

“At least we’re alive,” said Roberts, a 22-year-old who took shelter during the storm with relatives. His wife, Ronique, said a car floated across their yard during the hurricane, which stalled over Grand Bahama Island and caused widespread damage Saturday.

It remained unclear how many homes were flooded in the Bahamas, but officials said they estimated that scores, perhaps hundreds, of homes were damaged on Grand Bahama Island alone.

One man was found dead Saturday on the western end of Grand Bahama, police Superintendent Basil Rahming said. Police believe the man was trying to swim to safety. Another man was electrocuted Friday while trying to fill a generator with diesel fuel as the storm raged.

Police said they feared a third man in his 80s was likely killed in his wooden house when it collapsed Saturday near the western tip of Grand Bahama. His body had yet to be found.

At least five people on the island sustained minor injuries during the storm, from a toddler who had her face cut by a piece of flying glass to a man who hurt himself trying to cut a tree in his yard, said Sharon Williams, the administrator of Rand Memorial Hospital.

On Saturday, heavy winds shattered glass windows at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Freeport, including lobby windows stretching from floor to ceiling.

Hooneymooner Curt Crites, 29, of Olympia, Wash., took cover with his wife in a hallway on the hotel’s ninth floor after the windows in their room shattered. “You’re thinking about what to do to keep yourself from dying,” Crites said.

The hurricane pummeled Florida with heavy winds and rain Sunday that knocked out power to 4 million people, ripped up roofs and uprooted trees. Power remained out in spots across the Bahamas, including Freeport, the Bahamas’ second-largest commercial center, where the brunt of the storm hit Saturday with sustained winds of up to 105 mph.

More than 1,000 people rode out the storm in shelters.

Parts of the Grand Bahama airport remained flooded, and electricity was out on the island of 50,000 people.

Police said about a dozen businesses reported break-ins, and some residents said they feared looting. “I’m just getting whatever I can, whatever I can salvage before someone else does,” said Bill McGomigal, a 37-year-old originally from Cleveland who pulled a pontoon boat from under the twisted remnants of his metal garage door.

Joan Niell, a 52-year-old Briton who has lived in the Bahamas for years, said she hired someone to watch her home and guard against looters because glass doors were blown out and the roof caved in.

Many said the damage was more widespread than in Hurricane Floyd in 1999. “We never had one like this,” said John Barr, 52, a liquor store owner whose furniture was soaked by floodwaters.