At least 2,500 people have been registered as missing after Hurricane Dorian, the Bahamas government said Wednesday, as it confirmed that oil from tanks damaged by the storm had spread along the coast of Grand Bahama.
The National Emergency Management Agency became aware of the oil spill as soon as it was able to fly over Grand Bahama and alerted the Norwegian company, Equinor, that owns and manages the facility, said spokesperson Carl Smith.
"They indicated that they are aware of it and they had already taken steps to mobilize a response to the spill," said Smith.
Equinor's oil facility is on the shore of the eastern end of Grand Bahama, which was slammed by Dorian when the storm parked itself over the island with winds in excess of 165 mph and life threatening rains.
Evan Cartwright, an architect with the Bahamas Ministry of Works, said the oil from the facility had made its way into the area's drinking water supply.
"Oil is everywhere," he said. "In the ocean, drinking water."
During the daily briefing Wednesday, officials said clean water remains limited. Samples of water have been sent off to labs to test for salt water intrusion.
Officials warned that Bahamians are still in the peak of hurricane season, and they should expect heavy rainfall and gusty winds through the weekend.
Smith said the 2,500 people on a government registry for the missing had not been checked against government records of people staying in shelters or evacuated.
At least 5,500 people, Smith said, had been evacuated to Nassau, where officials were adding additional tents to accommodate evacuees.
He said the list could decrease as families are reunited and as individuals who evacuated from Abaco and Grand Bahama register with social services.
Greg Smith, a resident of Grand Bahama and the former president of the chamber of commerce, is among those trying to find the body of a relative.
He lost an aunt in the stormwhen she lost her grip as they were passing one of her grandchildren to her on the roof of a house to escape the rising water.
Smith said he's received images of bodies in body bags being brought into the local morgue.
"There has been quite a bit of bodies coming and going into the morgue," he said. "I don't know the amount. We don't know what the death toll will ultimately be."
Smith, the NEMA spokesperson, pushed back against criticism about a lack of government presence in Grand Bahama, where some people are complaining about aid not getting to survivors.
"There's no such thing as the government or NEMA not having a presence on the ground," he said.
He urged charities and nongovernmental organizations that want to help evacuees to work directly with them, as "NEMA is focused on coordinating shelters and other support so Bahamians do not need to leave their home country.''
NEMA also noted that counseling was being provided to those searching for family members.
A representative from Bahamas Power and Light said the company expects to power to the southern part of Abaco in three weeks. The company has not completed assessment of the 15 affected cays, which could take months to restore.