A hurricane relief appeal has been launched by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation after the death toll from destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas rose to at least seven.

The island nation’s prime minister Hubert Minnis warned the country can “expect more deaths”, and said parts of the Abaco Islands had been “decimated” by the storm. Airports on Grand Bahama and Abaco were flooded and left under water.

Royal Caribbean Cruises committed more than $1 million to Bahamas relief efforts and pledged to deliver vital supplies to the islands by ship.

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Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald reconfirmed a commitment to two major projects on the islands of Grand Bahama and Half Moon Cay “as part of the recovery and rebuilding process”.

The hurricane has finally shifted away from the Bahamas and is moving parallel to the coast of Florida.

Hurricane Dorian has weakened to a category two storm but it has grown larger in area, with maximum sustained winds of 110mph.

Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina will still feel the impact of the storm and have all declared states of emergency, with mandatory evacuation orders across many areas.

Walt Disney World, Legoland and other tourist parks have announced early closures in anticipation of the hurricane.

Two Virgin Atlantic flights from Gatwick and Manchester to Orlando have been cancelled today while six are set to operate but with delays.

The airline said Orlando international airport had granted it a “limited window of opportunity” to operate some flights today (Wednesday) after six cancellations yesterday due to the closure of the airport.

“As a result, we have had to consolidate a small number of our flights operating to Orlando from London Gatwick and Manchester airports,” Virgin Atlantic said.

“We’re liaising with Orlando International airport on recovery operations for our customers and are hoping that we can operate as many of our flights as possible throughout the week.”

But Thomas Cook Airlines does not expect to resume Orlando services until tomorrow with a total of eight flights to and from the UK.

The carrier said last night: “Orlando airport remains closed and will not fully re-open in time for tomorrow’s flights to operate. As a result, all flights due to depart on Wednesday, September 4 are delayed.

“Package customers who were due to fly back to the UK on Tuesday and Wednesday will remain in their accommodation. You do not need to do anything and we will only contact you if there is a need to change hotel.

“For customers who are flight-only, Thomas Cook Airlines will cover any reasonable accommodation and meal costs until we can get you home.”

Announcing the Bahamas hurricane relief fund, the CTO said: “In the wake of this monstrous storm, we have witnessed the pain of those who lost loved ones, the agony of so many who lost their homes and all their belongings, and the angst of an entire Caribbean concerned for the welfare of the people of these islands.”

With the Bahamas being an archipelago with more than 700 islands and cays spread over 100,000 square miles, the greatest impact of Hurricane Dorian was felt in the northern islands of the Abacos and Grand Bahama, while most of the nation has been mostly unaffected, according to the CTO.

“As has been demonstrated so many times in the past, we have weathered many storms, we are a resilient people who refuse to surrender even in the most difficult of times, and we are confident that the people of the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, with the full support of the Islands of the Bahamas and the Caribbean tourism family, will navigate the road to recovery together and emerge stronger.

“The CTO offers our full support to the Bahamas. We have activated our hurricane relief fund which has been established to help our people and countries rebuild after disasters.”

Royal Caribbean Crusies said: “For more than half a century, we’ve made many friends and many memories. The Bahamas is also home to more than 500 of our colleagues who work at Perfect Day at CocoCay and the Grand Bahama Shipyard.

“So in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, we’re rolling up our sleeves to help our friends, and inviting our guests to help.

“Royal Caribbean is committing $1 million to Dorian disaster relief, and ITM – our partner in the Holistica joint venture that is developing the Grand Lucayan resort in Freeport – is also donating an additional $100,000.

“To make sure our donations go where they can do the most good, we are collaborating with the Bahamian government and our non-profit partner, the Pan American Development Foundation, and a network of Bahamian charities and other local organisations, including the Bahamas Feeding Network.

“We are loading all kinds of goods onto our ships – generators, water, cleaning supplies, clean sheets, towels, and more – for direct delivery to the Bahamas.

“The trained employee volunteers we call the Go Team are on their way to assist with relief efforts. And we’re taking special care of co-workers and their families who were affected by the storm.

“And we’re matching every dollar of guest and employee donations to PADF so they can help our friends as well.”

Donations to the CTO fund can be made here:

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