While the official death toll from Hurricane Dorian remains at 23 for now, Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands projected that the final count will be “staggering”, as he revealed that additional morticians are being flown into Abaco and Grand Bahama to embalm the bodies that authorities have limited capacity to accommodate.
However, Dr. Sands said the government will bring in additional refrigerated coolers to properly store the dead.
“Make no bones about it, the numbers are going to be far higher than 23. It is going to be significantly higher than that,” he said on The Revolution with Juan McCartney on Guardian Radio 96.9 FM.
“It’s just a matter of retrieving those bodies and making sure we understand how they died. It may seem as if we are splitting hairs.
Guardian reporters on Abaco have reported seeing dozens of bodies at a clinic on the island. When asked to address that, Dr. Sands said bodies were brought in during the course of the night.
He said numbers will pass along a chain, and the count will eventually increase.
“It is way more than that,” he continued when asked why the process was moving so slowly.
“The question being put is, ‘What is the official confirmed death toll?’
“..There are only particular people that can declare persons dead. And until such persons are declared dead, they cannot be recorded as an official death.”
He said the process may seem ridiculous to many Bahamians, but has legal and insurance implications.
Asked to estimate how many people perished during the storm, Dr. Sands said, he prefers not to guess.
“Let me say that I believe the number will be staggering,” he added.
“…I have never lived through anything like this and I don’t want to live through anything like this again.”
In addition to bringing in additional morticians, Dr. Sands said the government will also have to bring in additional refrigerated coolers to store the dead.
“We are running out of cooler capacity,” he said.
The monster storm made its exit from The Bahamas on Tuesday night, after pulverizing Grand Bahama and Abaco for three days.
Widespread damage has been reported on both islands as a result f the storm, which left thousands of people homeless.
Sands added that 80 people were injured on Abaco. He expects that number to increase as well.
He said the government does not have the capacity to deal with this “health crisis” and revealed that he’s called on the director of the World Health Organization, among other organizations, for help.
“We will have three additional mini hospitals brought to both Abaco and Grand Bahama,” he said.
Dr. Sands said 50 additional doctors will be brought in as well to provide acute, long term and psychological care. He said those doctors understand the conditions under which they will have to work.
Additionally, he also advised that the University of Miami has donated $9 million worth in medical supplies.
In the meantime, he said the government is trying to source ambulances for the islands. Abaco only has one functioning ambulance. The remainder of the fleet was damaged during the storm.