Hurricane Frances Causes Damage in Bahamas

Monday September 6, 2004 8:01 AM

FREEPORT, Bahamas (AP) - Howling winds and severe flooding brought by Hurricane Frances pounded the Bahamas for two days, leaving at least two people dead, homes destroyed and yards littered with mangled trees.

As Bahamians emerged from Frances' destruction on Sunday, officials said they feared the death toll could rise. The northern island of Grand Bahama appeared particularly hard-hit, with several neighborhoods flooded, fallen trees blocking roads and severed power lines hidden amid debris.

Officials estimated that hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed on Grand Bahama Island alone.

``There is total destruction,'' said police Superintendent Basil Rahming, who toured the western end of the island on Sunday. ``Buildings are flattened. We're going to have to rebuild completely.''

Violent winds destroyed a wall at Gary Roberts' home, where waters rushed in shoulder-deep, ruining furniture and mattresses.

``At least we're alive,'' said Roberts, a 22-year-old who took shelter during the storm with relatives. His wife, Ronique, said a car floated across their yard during the hurricane, which stalled over Grand Bahama Island and caused widespread damage Saturday.

One man was found dead Saturday on the western end of Grand Bahama, police Superintendent Basil Rahming said. Police believe the man was trying to swim to safety. Another man was electrocuted Friday while trying to fill a generator with diesel fuel as the storm raged.

Police had feared a third man in his 80s was killed in his wooden house when it collapsed Saturday near the western tip of Grand Bahama. But he survived; police said they found him at a neighbor's home. The man was hospitalized with internal injuries, but his condition was not immediately known.

At least six people on the island sustained injuries during the storm, from a toddler who had her face cut by a piece of flying glass to a man who hurt himself trying to cut a tree in his yard, said Sharon Williams, the administrator of Rand Memorial Hospital.

Honeymooner Curt Crites, 29, of Olympia, Washington, took cover with his wife in a hallway on the hotel's ninth floor after the windows in their room shattered. ``You're thinking about what to do to keep yourself from dying,'' Crites said.

Power remained out in spots across the Bahamas, including Freeport, the Bahamas' second-largest commercial center, where the brunt of the storm hit with sustained winds of up to 105 mph. More than 1,000 people rode out the storm in shelters.

Parts of the Grand Bahama airport remained flooded, and electricity was out on the island of 50,000 people.

Police said about a dozen businesses reported break-ins, and some residents said they feared looting. ``I'm just getting whatever I can, whatever I can salvage before someone else does,'' said Bill McGomigal, a 37-year-old originally from Cleveland who pulled an inflatable boat from under the twisted remnants of his metal garage door.

National Hurricane Center: