3 weeks after Dorian, the smell of death hangs heavy in the Bahamas as 1,300 remain missing

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 three 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.

A preliminary report estimates Dorian caused some $7 billion in damage, but the government has not yet offered any figures. Crews have started to remove some debris on the islands, but they are moving slowly to avoid accidentally disturbing any bodies lying in the rubble.

On many parts of Eastern Grand Bahama, the smell of dead bodies permeates the air.

The small villages that dot the eastern coast of Grand Bahama have barely received any help. Some residents have been hitchhiking daily from Freeport to their destroyed homes to sort through their belongings and clean up.

Tereha Davis, a 45-year-old fisherwoman, said she was unable to find a ride one day and ended up walking eight miles under the blistering sun. She piled up the things she managed to salvage until she could find a ride back to Freeport with her few remaining possessions. On Wednesday, she walked through McLean's Town wearing purple surgical gloves, taking a break from cleaning as she looked for something sweet to drink for a boost of energy. She found nothing.

She and others said they had not seen any government officials and have only received food and water from nonprofit groups.

The search for loved ones in Abaco, which Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said were mostly decimated by Dorian, continued with renewed urgency.

At least 42 people died in Abaco and eight in Grand Bahama, and Minnis has warned that number will increase significantly.

Members of the police join a recovery team looking in the debris in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas one week after Hurricane Dorian. The search for bodies continues, and the death toll is expected to keep rising. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Bodies are still being found, including two discovered last weekend under debris in Marsh Harbor on Grand Abaco, just on the other side of the street from where an emergency agency has set up temporary headquarters in a grocery store.

Minnis assured Bahamians in a recent televised address that the government was working hard to recover bodies and notify families, adding that officials are providing counseling amid reports of nightmares and psychological trauma.

"The grief is unbearable," the prime minister said.