FREEPORT, Bahamas — As Hurricane Dorian pounded the Bahamas for almost two days, a powerful storm surge inundated a local animal shelter and killed nearly 300 dogs and cats.
Staff with the Humane Society of Grand Bahama were taking care of 300 dogs and 100 cats when the historic Category 5 hurricane hit. The slow-moving system brought on a deluge of rain and caused a massive storm surge.
That surge washed over much of Grand Bahama Island and flooded the shelter. It ended up killing 220 dogs and 50 cats, according to CNN.
Elizabeth Burrows, executive director of the society, said she felt heartbroken over the large loss of life.
“My heart is broken for the sheltered animals that we lost,” she told CNN. “I feel so bad for the people who entrusted their animals to us and ultimately, we couldn’t protect them.”
Burrows said a new shelter was built in 2008 with an elevated foundation. She said the shelter had remained safe during other storms and flooding events.
But the powerful surge caused by Dorian was too much and eventually made its way into the building.
“The shelter’s vehicles are submerged and most likely inoperable. (Staff) may not be able to get out to help after the storm and will need all the help they can get,” one Facebook post said on Sept. 2.
Another update posted on Facebook revealed that the drains in the shelter stopped working and at least “5 feet of water” made its way in. The staff tried to save the dogs and cats by raising their crates even as the water reached the staff members’ chests.
“Asking for immediate help from rescuers – please spread the word. There are 6 people in the shelter on Coral Road that need immediate help as they are in neck high water. We are calling all numbers but please share,” another Facebook post said.
But when the water became too much, the staff had to find shelter.
Felicia Telfort, shelter supervisor, told CNN that staff members pulled each other up through a small hole to get to the attic. They were able to bring up three dogs, according to the Miami Herald.
As they waited out the surge, dogs and cats cried out for help. Eventually, their cries stopped and staff knew the animals were gone, according to CNN.
Many of the dogs and cats were up for adoption, while some were left by families who evacuated the island or couldn’t bring pets to a storm shelter, CNN reported.
Burrows told the Miami Herald that the shelter is the only one on Grand Bahama Island and takes in about 1,200 dogs each year.
The Humane Society shared out a GoFundMe account on its Facebook page with the goal of raising $250,000 for the much-needed materials. As of Sept. 9, more than $150,000 was raised.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.