Tropical storm Humberto lashes hurricane-hit Bahamas

The storm is expected to strengthen into a hurricane on Sunday as it moves away from the Bahamas and the US coast.

Aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in Bahamas
Some 1,300 people remain unaccounted for in the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, which hit part of the islands a fortnight ago [Alejandro Granadillo/Anadolu Agency]

Tropical Storm Humberto has lashed the Bahamas with rain and wind, possibly slowing down relief efforts just two weeks after Hurricane Dorian ripped through part of the islands.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Saturday that Humberto was expected to become a hurricane by Sunday night as it moved away from the Bahamas and the US coast, but would not threaten land by the time it intensified to that strength.

At 18:00 GMT, NHC said the storm was located about 65km (40 miles) north of Great Abaco Island and 190km (120 miles) east-northeast of Freeport, Grand Bahama island. The storm was moving at 11kph (7mph) with maximum sustained winds of 85 kph (50 mph).

Swells generated by the storm were expected to increase and affect the coasts of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina later this weekend and early next week, however.  These swells could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

The announcement from the NHC came after it had warned early on Friday that a strengthening tropical depression was heading for the same islands hit by Dorian last week

Grand Bahama and Great Abaco – in the path of the strengthening weather system, according to Bahamian forecasters – were among the worst-hit by Dorian.

‘Too much to bear’

The Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) confirmed the death toll had risen to 52 following Dorian, although officials have said they expect it to rise significantly.

Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said earlier this week he feared the final death toll could be in the hundreds.

NEMA spokesman Carl Smith said some 1,300 people remained unaccounted for.

He said 71 people were staying in shelters on Grand Bahama island and 2,037 in shelters on New Providence, where the capital, Nassau is located.

Smith warned the storm could have an impact on relief and recovery efforts on the islands.

“The weather system will slow down logistics,” Smith told a news conference in Nassau. “Fuel and water remain the biggest needs in Abaco.”

Reporting from the capital, Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher said there was “nowhere else for the water to go” on islands already inundated with rain by Dorian, with people “battening down the hatches for the second time in two weeks”.

“Clearly all operations and reconstruction work have to stop for the next 24 hours until they can assess the situation,” Fisher said.

“But for the next few hours all eyes are on that storm [Humberto] and the path it will take – everyone is hoping that it will move away from those islands that have really had too much to bear in the past two weeks,” he added.

‘New era of climate crisis’

The developments came as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of the dangers of climate change during a visit to the hurricane-battered archipelago.

Guterres said in a tweet he had come to the Bahamas “to express my solidarity with the Bahamian people” and “ways we can continue supporting them”.

He said 75 percent of all buildings had been destroyed in some areas by Dorian, a Category 5 storm.

“Hospitals are either in ruins, or overwhelmed,” Guterres said. “Schools have been turned into rubble. Thousands of people will continue to need help with food, water and shelter.”

He said the hurricane demonstrated the need to address climate change.

“In our new era of climate crisis, hurricanes and storms are turbocharged,” Guterres said. “They happen with greater intensity and frequency – a direct result of warmer oceans.

“Science is telling us: this is just the start. Without urgent action, climate disruption is only going to get worse. Every week brings news of climate-related devastation.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies