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For Bahamas residents, an agonizing wait for news of family

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In the hurricane-battered Bahamas, seeing is believing when it comes to knowing loved ones are safe.

"The only way we have to know that people are OK is seeing them walk out," said Martysta Turnquest.

The 25-year-old is prepared to wait all day at the Nassau airport to welcome her mother or her aunt, evacuated from Grand Abaco, one of the worst-hit islands in the Bahamas during Hurricane Dorian.

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In the private section of the international airport, rounds of helicopters heading north towards the devastated areas have been flying since Wednesday morning. In front of a hangar, ambulances wait to transport wounded survivors, who arrive at a snail's pace, to local hospitals.

Turnquest and her two cousins eagerly search the arriving faces for a familiar one.

The three students only recently moved to Nassau, the archipelago's capital, and have had almost no news of their friends and family in Treasure Cay since the Category 5 storm bore down on the islands Sunday.

"All that we have -- that we had -- is on that island. We have nothing left," said Turnquest's cousin Meghan Bootle, 21.

"We have a few injured people that are trying to get out of Abaco," said Raevyn, Bootle's sister.

"Those who are healthy will have to wait to be evacuated," the 18-year-old added.

Any contact with people still in the affected areas has been sporadic and short, with only satellite telephones working, and connection spotty at best.

'It is extremely stressful'
"Last night, Raevyn and Meghan's mother had to call our aunt who lives in Washington state, who had to call back to Nassau and tell us," said Turnquest.

"It is extremely stressful," she added, but "we are ready to welcome our people home."

Dorian wreaked catastrophic devastation on Grand Bahama and Abaco islands, in the north of the Caribbean island chain, where the storm lingered for days, barely moving.

The hurricane dumped 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain on the islands, and violent winds pulverized houses. More than 73,000 people found themselves in Dorian's path.

A flyover of affected areas on Tuesday revealed that more than half of the largest town on Abaco Marsh Harbour was destroyed, and the local airport was completely flooded.

The floodwaters began to recede Wednesday, as the US Coast Guard and Britain's Royal Navy airlifted survivors and ferried in emergency supplies.

"There have been 20 confirmed deaths on Abaco. We expect that this number will increase," Prime Minister Hubert Minnis -- who also participated in the flyover -- told a news conference Wednesday evening.

In northern Abaco, according to Turnquest, many people still do not have cell or satellite phone service.

"There are still countless people... that are not accounted for," she said.

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BahamasHurricane Dorian
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