The Category 5 hurricane has made a direct hit on the islands, prompting authorities to evacuate low-lying areas. The storm's current path could spare the US a direct hit, but it still threatens several southern states.
Hurricane Dorian slammed into parts of the Bahamas on Sunday, creating life-threatening conditions for residents and tourists on the islands.
The US National Hurricane Center said the major storm made landfall in the Bahamas around 12:40 p.m. local time (1640 UTC/GMT). It hit two of the northwestern Abaco Islands and its "fury" was "now aiming towards Grand Bahama" island, according to the US National Hurricane Center (HNC) in Miami.
Dorian has become a Category 5 storm, maintaining top sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (295 kilometers per hour), the HNC said. Category 5 is the most dangerous on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.
In a nationally televised briefing, Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis warned that anyone who did not evacuate was "in extreme danger and can expect a catastrophic consequence."
'We ask for God's guidance'
Ahead of the hurricane's landfall in the Bahamas, canned food and bottled water disappeared quickly from shelves and people boarded up their homes.
"We ask for God's guidance and for God to assist us through this," Minnis said.
Any remaining tourists in the Bahamas were sent to government shelters in schools, churches and other buildings offering protection from the storm.
Over the next two to three days, the hurricane could dump as much as 4 feet (1.2 meters) of rain, unleash devastating winds and whip up an abnormal and dangerous rise in sea level called storm surge, meteorologist Ryan Maue told The Associated Press.
The storm-prone Bahamas on average faces a direct hit from a hurricane every four years, officials said.
Forecasters expect Dorian to curve northward after hitting the Bahamas.
With the storm threatening the southern US states, President Donald Trump canceled an official trip to Poland on Sunday
US prepares for Dorian
The storm's current path could spare the US a direct hit, but it still threatens Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina with powerful winds and rising ocean water that causes potentially deadly flooding.
Florida towns have told residents to remain vigilant despite forecasts they might dodge a Dorian landfall, with a tropical storm watch issued for the state's south Atlantic coast.
Meanwhile, North Carolina authorities warned residents Dorian was heading their way.
North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEMA) said the storm was forecast to keep moving in the state's direction for the next 48 hours.
"Now is the time to prepare and assemble disaster supplies," said Katie Webster, an NCEMA meteorologist, urging people to prepare a week's supply of food and water.
ls, sri/cmk (AP, Reuters)