The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued more than 200 people in the Bahamas since Hurricane Dorian made landfall on the area.
Crews from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater flew in helicopters to rescue those critically injured by the storm on Monday and Tuesday to evacuate them to areas where they could receive adequate medical care.
Coast Guard pilots and rescue swimmers held a press conference Friday after returning from the Bahamas, telling reporters they witnessed a “dangerous and traumatic” scene on the ground.
“Once we got up to Marsh Harbour, more of the central part, the town was just leveled. It looked like a landfill. The houses were just leveled. Trash everywhere,” said the helicopter’s pilot, Lt. Comdr. Nicholas Zablotny.
Petty Officer Chad Watson, a rescue swimmer, said crews had to assess where the damage was before going for a rescue. He added that crews would try to land the helicopter in areas where they would not have to lift the injured off the ground.
“We had everything from diabetics who were out of insulin, diabetic ketoacidosis, all the way to pregnancies, women in late stages of pregnancy that needed to be out of there so they wouldn’t have their child in that position,” Watson said.
“We also saw a lot of traumatic injuries- injuries to the head by flying debris, people crushed by cars, by buildings, multiple fractures to the legs, any limbs, anything. It was bad,” he added.
Hurricane Dorian’s death toll rose to 43 as of Saturday afternoon and has left at least 70,000 people displaced from their homes. Officials say this number is expected to go up dramatically, as hundreds remain missing or buried in the rubble on Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands.