Hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the Atlantic, continued to pummel the Bahamas as its outer bands begin to reach parts of Florida.
Dorian was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane early on Tuesday but continues to batter the Bahamas as it remains almost at a standstill.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told CNN that at least five people had died as a result of the storm, but officials said the death toll could go up.
Mr. Minnis added that many homes, businesses and other buildings have been destroyed or heavily damaged, calling the devastation “unprecedented and extensive.”
The storm is expected to head slowly north later Tuesday morning, forecasters said. Dorian is forecast to approach Florida Tuesday night through Wednesday evening, pass very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday and then roll “near or over” the North Carolina coast late Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said.
With peak winds of 295km/h, Hurricane Dorian is the strongest storm on record to strike the Bahamas, and it threatens to bring hurricane-force winds, coastal flooding and other impacts to the east coast of Florida and Southeastern US.
In Florida, where the hurricane’s outer bands have already arrived, 17 counties are under evacuation.
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp issued evacuation orders for 12 counties, urging residents to get out.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster also issued mandatory evacuations for coastal counties which will go into effect Tuesday at noon. With reports from AlJazeera, CNN and CBS.