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Hurricane death toll climbs to 20 in devastated Bahamas

FREEPORT, Bahamas (AP) — The ground crunched under Greg Alem’s feet on Wednesday as he walked over the ruins of his home, laid waste by Hurricane Dorian. He touched a splintered beam of wood and pointed to the fallen trees, overcome by memories.

“We planted those trees ourselves. Everything has a memory, you know,” he said. “It’s so, so sad. … In the Bible there is a person called Job, and I feel like Job right now. He’s lost everything, but his faith kept him strong.”

The devastation wrought by Dorian — and the terror it inflicted during its day-and-a-half mauling of the Bahamas — came into focus Wednesday as the passing of the storm revealed a muddy, debris-strewn landscape of smashed and flooded-out homes on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. The official death toll from the strongest hurricane on record ever to hit the country jumped to 20, and there was little doubt it would climb higher.

With a now-distant Dorian pushing its way up the Southeastern U.S. coast, menacing Georgia and the Carolinas, many people living in the Bahamas were in shock as they slowly came out of shelters and checked on their homes.

In one community, George Bolter stood in the bright sunshine and surveyed the ruins of what was once his home. He picked at the debris, trying to find something, anything, salvageable. A couple of walls were the only thing left.

“I have lost everything,” he said. “I have lost all my baby’s clothes, my son’s clothes. We have nowhere to stay, nowhere to live. Everything is gone.”

The Bahamian government sent hundreds of police officers and marines into the stricken islands, along with doctors, nurses and other health care workers, in an effort to reach drenched and stunned victims and take the full measure of the disaster.

“There are many in Grand Bahama who are suffering,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a news conference. “We know there are many Bahamians that are in need of help. I want to assure you that more help is on the way.”

He thanked the international community for its response, especially the U.S. government for what he called their “exceptional assistance.”

The U.S. Coast Guard, Britain’s Royal Navy and relief organizations including the United Nations and the Red Cross joined the burgeoning effort to rush food and medicine to survivors and lift the most desperate people to safety by helicopter. The U.S. government also dispatched urban search-and-rescue teams.

Londa Sawyer stepped off a helicopter in Nassau, the capital, with her two children and two dogs after being rescued from Marsh Harbor in the Abaco islands.

“I’m just thankful I’m alive,” she said. “The Lord saved me.”

Sawyer said that her home was completely flooded and that she and her family fled to a friend’s home, where the water came up to the second floor and carried them up to within a few feet of the roof. She said she and her children and the dogs were floating on a mattress for about half an hour until the water began receding.

Sandra Cooke, who lives in Nassau, said her sister-in-law was trapped under her roof for 17 hours in the Abaco islands and wrapped herself in a shower curtain as she waited.

“The dog laid on top of her to keep her warm until the neighbors could come to help,” she said. “All of my family lives in Marsh Harbor, and everybody lost everything. Not one of them have a home to live anymore.”

The storm pounded the Bahamas with Category 5 winds up to 185 mph (295 kph) and torrential rains, swamping neighborhoods in brown floodwaters and destroying or severely damaging, by one estimate, nearly half the homes in Abaco and Grand Bahama, which have 70,000 residents and are known for their marinas, golf courses and all-inclusive resorts.

Bahamian Health Minister Duane Sands said 17 of the dead were from the Abaco islands and three from Grand Bahama. He said he could not release further details because the government still had to contact family members.

Some people in the Abaco islands complained that they had not seen any aid except for medical supplies for the main hospital, where hundreds of people were temporarily living as they awaited help.

By late Wednesday, Dorian has crept back up to Category 3 force with 115 mph (185 kph) winds and was pushing toward a brush with the Carolinas — with a direct hit on the outer banks possible. An estimated 3 million people in Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina had been warned to clear out, and highways leading inland were turned into one-way evacuation routes.

At 11 p.m. EDT, Dorian was centered about 105 miles (170 kilometers) south of Charleston, South Carolina, moving north at 7 mph (11 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 60 miles (100 kilometers) from its center.

(WISH Image)

Forecasters said there was the danger of life-threatening floods as storm surge moves inland from the coastline, as well as the potential for over a foot of rain in some spots.

“Hurricane Dorian has its sights set on North Carolina,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “We will be ready.”

As the threat to Florida eased and the danger shifted farther up the coast, Orlando’s airport reopened, along with Walt Disney World and Universal. To the north, ships at the big Norfolk, Virginia, naval base were ordered to head out to sea for safety, and warplanes at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia were sent inland.

The U.S. mainland recorded its first death in connection with the hurricane, that of an 85-year-old man in North Carolina who fell off a ladder while preparing his home for the storm. Dorian was also blamed for one death in Puerto Rico.

On Tybee Island, Georgia, Debbie and Tony Pagan stacked their beds and couches atop other furniture and covered their doors with plastic wrap and sandbags before evacuating. Their home flooded during both Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017.

“It’s a terrible way to live,” Debbie Pagan said. “We have the whole month of September and October to go. How would you like to be living on pins and needles?”

Another Tybee islander, Sandy Cason, said: “The uncertainty and the unknown are the worst part. Just not knowing what’s going to be here when you get back.”

Along King Street in historic Charleston, South Carolina, dozens of shops and restaurants typically bustling with tourists were boarded up, plywood and corrugated metal over windows and doors, as the flood-prone downtown area braced for high water.

Mark Russell, an Army veteran who has lived in South Carolina much of his life, went to a hurricane shelter right away. As for those who hesitated to do so, he said: “If they go through it one time, maybe they’ll understand.”


Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Weissenstein from Nassau, Bahamas. AP writers Tim Aylen in Freeport; Russ Bynum in Georgia; and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

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Mike Fiers, the Astros whistleblower, says he’s received death threats

(CNN) — Mike Fiers, the Major League Baseball pitcher who was the whistleblower in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scheme, has said that he has received death threats.

“Whatever, I don’t care,” Fiers said to the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday. “I’ve dealt with a lot of death threats before. It’s just another thing on my plate.”

Fiers, who currently pitches for the Oakland Athletics, said to the Chronicle that he’s not concerned about his safety but that he is always concerned about his family’s safety.

In a November 12 story in The Athletic, Fiers said the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing methods in 2017 that violated MLB’s rules. Fiers pitched for the Astros in 2017, the year Houston defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the franchise’s first World Series. The Athletic’s report with Fiers’ on-the-record comments spurred MLB to launch its investigation, which found that the Astros illegally created a system that decoded and communicated the opposing teams’ pitching signs to their own players.

On Tuesday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was asked if the league was concerned about Fiers’ safety — and, if so, what steps would be taken, particularly when the A’s play in Houston this season.

“We will take every possible step to protect Mike Fiers wherever he’s playing, whether it’s in Houston or somewhere else,” Manfred said at a press conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“I want to be really clear about this. Mike, who I do not know at all, did the industry a service. I do believe that we will be a better institution when we emerge at the end of this episode, and without a Mike Fiers, we probably would’ve had a very difficult time cleaning this up. It would’ve taken longer. I think we would’ve done it eventually, but it would’ve taken a lot longer. And I have a real problem with anybody who suggests that Mike did anything other than the right thing.”

Regarding MLB protection, Fiers said Wednesday to The Athletic: “I don’t know how they would.”

He added, “I’m not asking for extra security. I’m here to play baseball and I can defend myself, if anything. We do have National League games and I’m going to have to get into the box (to hit) just like everybody else. It’s part of the game. If they decide to throw at me, then they throw at me. There’s nothing much you can do about it.”

He also said, according to The Athletic: “I’ve dealt with a lot in my life. I’ve dealt with people hating me before. I’ve dealt with a lot of life problems. It is what it is. And if someone’s going to retaliate then by hitting me with a pitch, it’s not a big deal.”

There are strong opinions on either side when it comes to Fiers. One of those against him is former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz, who said on Thursday that Fiers looks like a “snitch” for going public on the Astros’ scandal.

“I’m mad at this guy, the pitcher that came out talking about it,” Ortiz said at Red Sox spring training at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida.

“And let me tell you why. Oh, after you make your money, after you get your ring, you decide to talk about it. Why don’t you talk about it during the season when it was going on? Why you didn’t say, ‘I don’t want to be no part of it?’ So you look like you’re a snitch.”

When asked if he might consider returning his World Series ring, Fiers said he currently has no plans to do so unless it’s mandated for the 2017 team to do that.

“I said from the beginning, ‘I’m not away from this. I was part of that team, I was one of those guys,'” Fiers said to the Chronicle. “Suspensions, fines — I’m willing to take as much punishment as they do. If they ask me to (return the ring), it’s not the end of the world.”

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