ABACO, Bahamas (KTVU) - A Bay Area videographer, who traveled to the Bahamas in the days after Hurricane Dorian, is telling a moving tale of rescue amid a harrowing story of destruction, in the wake of the disaster that hit the island nation earlier this month.
Using specialized infrared drones, Oakland resident Douglas Thron has captured powerful images from above: vehicles tossed onto their side, homes completely obliterated and turned into piles of wood, and then from the devastation emerged a symbol of hope.
Thron said he spotted a starving dog. He didn't waste any time to try to help the animal. He documented the efforts to rescue and feed the wandering pup, which had been trying to survive amid the rubble. Video he shared on YouTube showed the timid and malnourished dog hesitantly and slowly approaching a plastic container of kibbles which Thron put out for the animal.
Once the dog appears to trust the photographer, Thron moves in again to provide it water, which the animal laps up.
Thron then shows a dramatic image of the satisfied dog, stomach full, resting in front of a van that had been tossed onto its side by the hurricane's forces. Thron said the next morning he led rescue teams to the animal. "He was saved but countless others remain lost in the mountains of rubble," he explained in the video.
As Thron tells the story of the hungry dog, the images in his video are inter-spliced with drone footage of the wide swath of destruction. The caption over the images: "Thousands of people and animals died, with countless more still missing."
He explained that he came to the Bahamas to help with the relief efforts and to document the damage, and he said that his drones have served as a critical tool in locating stranded and starving animals.
"While delivering aid and filming the destruction in an effort to bring public awareness, I spotted numerous dogs and cats with my drones and quickly realized this was the most effective way of finding these poor animals before it's too late," he said.
This isn't Thron's first video project to illustrate the massive power of Mother Nature. Last year, he flew his drones over burned out areas from the Camp Fire in Butte County, where he also came to the aid of lost animals there.
"It's like going into a battlefield," he told KTVU then. "Their paws are burned, those poor little cats. Seeing a cat get reunited, well, sometimes that's the only thing the owner has left."
His drone videography may be familiar to some, as an eerie image he captured following the North Bay Tubbs Fire in October 2017 was widely shared and received national attention.
That video showed aerial shots of a lone US Postal Service truck driver, delivering mail to a devastated Santa Rosa neighborhood, where most of the homes were burned to the ground.
After capturing the images, Thron described the scene as shocking and said he was blown away by what he saw. "... it looked more like a warplane had flown over and blown up the area than a fire since the houses were completely burned to the ground as well as the cars," Thron explained.
In response to his latest efforts in the Bahamas, the videographer said it has so far been the worst disaster he's witnessed. "I've covered many of the biggest natural disasters in recent times including the Paradise and Santa Rosa, California fires, and I can honestly say I've never seen a place as destroyed as Marsh Harbour," the videographer wrote on YouTube.
After two weeks in the Bahamas, Thron is now back in the Bay Area to gather more supplies. He plans to continue his disaster aid and animal rescue work when he returns to the hurricane-hit area this weekend.
As of this week, at least 53 people are dead from Dorian, but the death toll is expected to skyrocket, with some 1,300 still missing. 75,000 people remain homeless.
This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.