New Delhi: At least 20 people have died in the widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian in the northern Bahamas on Wednesday, said health minister Duane Sands. The toll is expected to rise.

Seventeen people were killed in Abacos while three deaths were reported from Grand Bahama. Rescue and search efforts are underway in the affected parts of the country.

On Sunday, Dorian hit the Bahamas as a category five hurricane and wreaked havoc in the island country. Many trees were uprooted, houses flattened, communication lines destroyed, leaving hundreds of people homeless.

“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said on Tuesday night. The storm downgraded to category 2 while heading north towards Florida coast and is expected to make landfall in North and South Carolina on Thursday.

Operations at Charleston International Airport in South Carolina were temporarily suspended and are expected to resume on Friday morning depending upon the weather conditions.