FREEPORT, Bahamas – Hurricane Frances (search) snapped trees, tore apart houses and flooded neighborhoods Saturday as it churned through the Bahamas, leaving at least two people dead.
One man was found floating face-down on the western end of Grand Bahama Island (search), police Superinn in his 80s was likely killed when his house collapsed Saturday near the western tip of Grand Bahama.
Also, several people were injured when a roof collapsed in a clinic in South Abaco island, about 30 miles west of Grand Bahama, the Ministry of Public Works said. The victims were being airlifted to a hospital in Nassau.
Authorities had urged those in low-lying areas to evacuate to shelters, but Rahming said many refused to listen. Police worked to pluck people from flooded homes in the storm's high winds.
For a short while, winds slowed as the eye of the storm passed over Freeport. But afterward, even more violent gusts swept the town.
Frances was expected to near Florida's east coast late Saturday or early Sunday; at 5 p.m. EDT, it was about 50 miles east of Palm Beach (search). Forecasters downgraded it to a Category 2 hurricane on Friday night as sustained winds dipped to 105 mph.
Police said people were marooned in the flooded neighborhoods of Freeport, appealing to any others remaining in low-lying areas to immediately evacuate. Several neighborhoods were underwater.
The slower-than-expected movement of the hurricane, at just 5 mph, meant a long ordeal for Bahamians. Roaring winds shattered windows and toppled power lines, knocking out electricity. Buildings trembled, palms bent, and street signs flew off poles.
The Freeport airport was partially submerged.
"We're hearing reports of flooding all over. We're trying to move people to safety," emergency administrator Alexander E. Williams said.
Sharon Carey, a 43-year-old waitress, said she awoke Saturday morning with water knee-deep in her house as police banged on the door. She said dozens of neighbors were evacuating.
"Everybody was starting to cry because we were scared," said Carey's 10-year-old daughter, Comerneich. "It was terrible."
At least 1,100 people on Grand Bahama Island rode out the storm in shelters, said Williams, the emergency administrator. Similar shelters were open on other islands, and many Bahamians left vulnerable homes to move in with their relatives.