CNN: It takes just seconds here to be overwhelmed by the stench of death.
‘Most people have not wanted to come here’
Some may be trapped under mountains of rubble where houses once stood. Others may have been washed away in the storm surge, their bodies only recently surfacing on land.
‘Grand Bahama right now is dead’
“My fear is that if no one stacked the bodies, they might still be there,” said Tanya Steinlage, an emergency pediatric nurse practitioner.
This is Steinlage’s second aid trip to the Bahamas since Dorian struck.
“When I got back the last time, I had to throw out my scrubs,” she said. “I couldn’t take it.”
Steinlage said the bodies she encountered had most likely washed up during the storm surges because there were no standing structures anywhere in sight.
“They need to bring cadaver dogs out here to find them,” she says. “Right now, they are just (considered) missing.”
Long-term health hazards abound
Just reaching this part of the Bahamas is a monumental feat.
Grand Bahama Highway, a lifeline connecting the entire length of the island, was impassable in many places for days.
Now that the highway has been cleared, the medics can reach places where residents had been trapped.
They enter one house, but no one is inside. A water line on the wall suggests neck-deep ocean water had surged through the home.
“The smell in there is just the mold from all the water,” Reidy said.
Mold isn’t the only long-term heath risk after the storm. In various parts of East Grand Bahama, the stench of sewage fills the air. There’s no running water, and the risk of infection is rampant.
Resident Patrice Higgs, 49, survived the storm in Mcleans’ Town Cay. But she cut herself sifting through the rubble.
The medics gave her bandages, antibacterial soap and clean water.
Another survivor tells the team he saw four people get washed away during the hurricane. But like many other residents, they’re nowhere to be found.
“It’s tough,” Steinlage said. “We all went into medicine to help people. And when there are no living (people) to help, we have to redefine our sense of success.”
The medics hope many of the missing residents evacuated, either before or after the storm. But they fear many are dead.
By the end of their first day in East Grand Bahama, the medics identified at least 30 locations where they smelled corpses — even if they couldn’t see them.
Helen Perry, a nurse practitioner and Army veteran, said she hopes cadaver dog teams would come and find the bodies. If they don’t, the decomposing bodies could lead to a cholera epidemic.
“You just can’t leave them,” she said.