Bahamian Health Minister Duane Sands said on Sunday that the government is not suppressing death toll figures following Hurricane Dorian, calling accusations that full extent of the deaths is being hidden “false” and “unfortunate”.
In an interview with The Miami Herald, Sands said that the priority for the government was not publishing an accurate body count but rather responding to residents who are in need of essential items such as food and water.
“The priority is to find those people for their loved ones who are missing to them; to take care, provide comfort to those who are hurt, who are suffering,” he told The Miami Herald.
As of Monday evening the official death toll stands at 50 according to a statement by the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
However, aid workers and some residents are reporting significantly higher numbers of bodies than what the official Bahamian government figures currently suggest.
The Bahamas Press, citing observers on the ground, estimated the final death count could be as high as 3,000 in just two neighborhoods on the Abaco Islands.
According to The Washington Post, this figure did not include the bodies rescue teams found during the day on Monday.
Joseph Hillhouse, an assistant fire chief from Gainesville, Florida is working as part of a US rescue mission in The Mudd and Pigeon Peas, two poor neighborhoods in the Great Abaco area. He helped to uncover five bodies in a search spanning only one-tenth of the area on Sunday.
He told the Post that he believes many more people have died than the official death toll suggests. “Based on our experience so far, I’d say there are a lot more.”
Residents of the Bahamas made similar claims, with Vic Micolucci, a reporter for a Florida-based local news station WJXT citing an Abaco resident named Steven as saying that “at least 1,000” have died on Abaco.
Thousands of people have also been reported as missing on the website DorianPeopleSearch.com – a platform set up to report missing people following the destruction of Dorian.