The death toll from Hurricane Dorian's devastating rampage across the Bahamas rose to 43 Friday, a number authorities said is likely to climb "significantly," even as rescuers plucked desperate survivors from the debris.
More than 260 residents of brutally damaged Abaco Island arrived in the capital city of Nassau after spending more than seven hours on a government-chartered ferry, a second of which was expected to arrive overnight.
Those who made it to safety awaited news of loved ones such as Diane Forbes, who had not heard from her two sons since Tuesday and was searching for them among some 200 evacuees sheltering at a gymnasium Friday night in Nassau, which was spared the wrath of the hurricane.
"They said they were hungry and the scent of the bodies, the dead, was really getting to them... I don't know if my son is alive or not," she said of one of her children, who had been in Marsh Harbour on Abaco with his girlfriend and her mother.
Health Minister Duane Sands confirmed the new death toll of 43, up from 30, according to US network CNN and Bahamas newspaper The Tribune.
"Forty-three is the official count, many missing and this number is expected to grow significantly," Erica Wells Cox, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, told NBC News.
The Bahamian government did not immediately respond when contacted by AFP.