By Zachary Fagenson
NASSAU (Reuters) – A tropical cyclone carrying heavy rain and strong winds neared the already devastated Bahamas on Friday, threatening to complicate Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts as the U.N. secretary-general arrived in the islands in a show of support.
The new weather system, known as Tropical Cyclone Nine, could strengthen into a tropical storm later on Friday, dropping up to 6 inches of rain through the weekend in areas of the islands inundated by Dorian, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.
Hurricane Dorian slammed into the Bahamas on Sept. 1 as a Category 5 storm, one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record to hit land, packing top sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (298 km per hour).
“The financial cost of the damage caused by Dorian is not clear, but it will be in the billions of dollars. The Bahamas cannot be expected to foot this bill alone,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on his arrival in Nassau, according to a transcript of his prepared remarks.
Guterres was expected to visit over the weekend with people affected by the hurricane and the humanitarian teams assisting them. He planned to meet with Prime Minister Hubert Minnis in Nassau.
Minnis said earlier this week that the official death toll stood at 50 but was expected to rise.
Tropical Cyclone Nine was not expected to bring anywhere near the devastation of Dorian, even if it strengthens into a depression or storm.
But the potentially heavy rain and winds, which could reach 30 mph (48 km), could hamper relief efforts in the northern Bahamas, where the powerful and slow-moving Dorian flattened thousands of structures and left 70,000 people needing shelter, food and water and medical assistance.
‘WET AND WINDY’
The storm could delay the movement of food and water already on the ground, said Carl Smith, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency during a news conference.
“I hope it does not disrupt it. We have taken precautionary measures to address the potential impact that we may encounter,” Smith said.
People whose homes were damaged or destroyed were advised to move to shelters he said.
By late afternoon on Friday, the tropical disturbance was 240 miles (385 km) east-southeast of Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, traveling northwest at 8 miles per hour, the NHC said.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for most of the Northwestern Bahamas, including Great Abaco Island and Grand Bahama Island, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. Those islands were ravaged when Dorian ripped through the archipelago as a Category 5 storm.
“Tropical storm force winds, heavy rain and high surf are expected” in the Bahamas, said Dennis Feltgen, the center’s spokesman. “Wet and windy, which is going to make the recovery over the northwest Bahamas that much more difficult.”
World Central Kitchen, a charity that has served some 200,000 prepared meals in the Bahamas since Dorian hit, said it was sending ingredients to Abaco ahead of the storm in case helicopters were unable to deliver ready-cooked food in the affected areas.
“Big storm is coming and we maybe can’t fly,” celebrity chef Jose Andres, who founded the organization in 2010, wrote in an Instagram post earlier this week.
The Canadian government said it might recall its Canadian Armed Forces crew deployed for humanitarian relief if the impending storm worsened.
“The safety of our aircrew and aircraft is always a priority,” said spokeswoman Alexia Croizer.
A tropical storm watch was in effect for parts of the east-central Florida coast. South Florida could see tropical storm force winds as early as Friday evening, the NHC said.
With 1,300 people still missing in the Bahamas, according to the Bahamian government, relief services are focusing on search and rescue as well as providing food, water and shelter.
Officials have erected large tents in Nassau to house those made homeless by Dorian. They plan to erect tent cities on Abaco to shelter up to 4,000 people.
(Reporting by Zach Fagenson in Nassau; additional reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, Gabriella Borter in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jason Neely, David Gregorio and Daniel Wallis)