Hurricane Dorian was still raging Monday on the Bahamas with torrential rains and winds nearing 300 km / h, a level unparalleled in the history of this Caribbean archipelago.
The hurricane continued its uncertain course towards the United States, where the authorities ordered the preventive evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people in the coastal regions.
Hurricane Category 5, described as "catastrophic" by the US National Hurricane Center (NHC), landed on Sunday at Elbow Cay, on the Abacos Islands in northwestern Bahamas, a country of some 700 islands.
"We are facing a hurricane as we have never seen in the history of the Bahamas," said Hubert Minnis, Prime Minister of this archipelago of some 700 islets between Florida, Cuba and Haiti . "It's probably the saddest day of my life," he added, in tears.
Videos posted on the website of the Bahamas' Tribune 242 newspaper showed gigantic waves reaching the roofs of wooden houses, capsized boats floating in muddy water amidst tree branches, planks and other debris.
According to the Miami-based NHC, Dorian equaled the 1935 record of the most powerful hurricane in the Atlantic when he landed, fearing scenes of devastation. However, no casualties were reported Monday at dawn.
"People are still traumatized by Matthew (in 2016) but it's even worse," Yasmin Rigby, who lives in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, told AFP.
The eye of the hurricane was Monday at 0200 GMT 95 km east of Freeport and was moving at a very low speed towards the west, said the NHC, which urged residents to stay safe.
"Do not get out of your shelters during the passage of the eye, because the winds will increase rapidly on the other side," warned the institute.
Since the White House, US President Donald Trump has called for the greatest vigilance against this climate phenomenon "very very powerful".
"Pray for the people of the Bahamas," he tweeted shortly thereafter.
"Very difficult to predict"
After the Bahamas, the hurricane is expected to approach the east coast of Florida (southeastern United States) Monday night and Tuesday, but it is difficult to predict how strongly it will hit the "Sunshine State".
Broken trees as Hurricane Dorian approaches, September 1, 2019 in Nassau, Bahamas
"Initially, he had to hit Florida directly," President Donald Trump said Sunday when he arrived at the White House back from Camp David. "It now looks like he's going to go back to South Carolina and North Carolina, and Georgia and Alabama will also be affected."
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"But his race could still change," warned the White House tenant, who canceled his trip to Poland this weekend.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency in his state. "The strength and unpredictability of the storm compels us to prepare for all scenarios," he said. He ordered the compulsory evacuation of the state coast, a measure affecting about 800,000 inhabitants.
The state of emergency had already been declared in Florida and in a dozen counties in the state of Georgia. This measure makes it possible to better mobilize the public services of the State and to resort if necessary to the federal aid.
Compulsory evacuation has also been ordered for the coastal areas of Palm Beach and Martin counties in Florida and for six coastal counties in Georgia.
If a form of relief prevailed in Miami, residents remained cautious and the city's distribution of sandbags to fight the floods continued.
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has urged people to "stay alert".
Florida, consisting mainly of a peninsula, is on the front line every year during the hurricane season.
With a very flat relief, the coastline is particularly threatened by rising water. The center of the land is also characterized by low altitudes. For the inhabitants, the main threat is therefore floods.
According to a relief coordinator, 12,000 soldiers are currently in Florida pending the arrival of Dorian.
Orlando Airport, where tourists want to visit Disney World, was scheduled to close at 0600 GMT Monday morning.