MCLEAN'S TOWN, Bahamas — They scan social media, peer under rubble, or try to follow the smell of death in an attempt to find family and friends.
They search amid alarming reports that 1,300 people remain listed as missing nearly two weeks after Hurricane Dorian hit the northern Bahamas.
The government, which has put the official death toll at 50, has cautioned that the list is preliminary and many could be staying in shelters and just haven't been able to connect with loved ones.
But fears are growing that many more died when the Category 5 storm slammed into the archipelago's northern region with winds in excess of 185 mph and severe flooding that toppled concrete walls and cracked trees in half as Dorian battered the area for a day and a half.
"If they were staying with me, they would've been safe," Phil Thomas Sr. said as he leaned against the frame of his roofless home in the fishing village of McLean's Town and looked into the distance.
The boat captain has not seen his 30-year-old son, his two grandsons or his granddaughter since the storm. They were all staying with his daughter-in-law, who was injured and taken to a hospital in the capital, Nassau, after the U.S. Coast Guard found her — but only her.
"People have been looking, but we don't really come up with anything," Thomas said, adding that he's heard rumors that someone saw a boat belonging to his son, a marine pilot, though the vessel also hasn't been found.
He especially misses his 8-year-old grandson: "He was my fishing partner. We were close."
The loss weighs on Thomas, who said he tries to stay busy cleaning up his home so he doesn't think about them.
"It's one of those things. I'm heartbroken, but life goes on," he said. "You pick up the pieces bit by bit. ... I've got to rebuild a house. I've got three more kids. I've got to live for them until my time
Meanwhile, a newly formed tropical depression headed toward the Bahamas and was expected to further drench the communities bashed by Dorian. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the system could become a tropical storm by Saturday and hit the central and northwestern Bahamas with winds and heavy rains before moving along the east coast
"The disturbance will more than likely take a very similar path to Dorian," chief meteorologist Shavonne Moxey-Bonamy said.
Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama, warned that system will affect the entire island and urged people to seek shelter. "As previous storms have taught us, things change very quickly," he said. "We want residents to take it
The approaching storm was slowing down efforts to bring in aid, and food and water remained the biggest needs in the hard-hit Abaco islands, where officials temporarily suspended flights in anticipation of the storm, a spokesman for the islands' National Emergency Management Agency said.
"Hang in there, we care for you, we will get to you," spokesman Carl Smith said. "We are doing our best. ... We ask people to have patience."
Meanwhile, the search for loved ones in Abaco, which Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said were mostly decimated by
Dorian, continued with renewed urgency. Diego Carey, a 25-year-old from the hard-hit community of Marsh Harbor, left Abaco for the capital, Nassau, after Dorian hit but returned Thursday after a 12-hour boat ride to search for two friends who remain
"We were together during the storm. It happened so fast. The roof just blew off," he said, adding that was the last time he saw them. "It's so traumatizing."
At least 42 people died in Abaco and eight in Grand Bahama, and Minnis has warned that number will increase