At least five people are dead and more than 13,000 people have seen their homes reduced to nothing as Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful storm to hit the Bahamas in decades, wreaks havoc on the tropical nation.

Over the weekend, Dorian blasted the Bahamas with winds of up to 300km/h and unleashed major flooding as thousands of people climbed into their roofs to escape the rising water.

But as those living in the Bahamas battle through the devastating hurricane, dozens upon dozens of tourists are instead seeing the country's devastation as an opportunity to post throwbacks of their bikini-clad pictures.

In some of the most tone-deaf pictures, Instagrammers offer their "thoughts and prayers" in captions alongside pictures of them lounging on white sand beaches and sitting in front of crystal-clear water.

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The Hurricane Dorian post had 1300 likes. Photo / Supplied
The Hurricane Dorian post had 1300 likes. Photo / Supplied

But the Insta throwbacks aren't sitting well with some of the social media community.

The picture of the woman wearing the red bikini was slammed on social media with some commenters calling it "disgraceful".

"This is disgusting, delete this," another said.

"This is why I ignore that phrase in social media," one added.

On Instagram, devastating pictures and footage of the Bahamas sits next to other pictures of smiling tourists standing in front of previously pristine beaches.

The influencers came off as cynical, posting beach photos from trips to the Bahamas. Photo / Supplied
The influencers came off as cynical, posting beach photos from trips to the Bahamas. Photo / Supplied

"My thoughts and prayers go out to all my friends in the Bahamas. Stay safe," one caption reads.

In the picture below, the translated caption reads, "My heart is in (two). A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to know this immensity of clear water, truly a paradise, how sad, my God, to see the desperation of the people in the videos, so many houses, cars, hospitals and places all being devastated by this damn hurricane! Let's pray for #Bahamas."

The woman below, verified by Instagram, did post two videos to her story of the devastation being experienced by the country.

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'Once we come out of it with our lives, we're happy'

The hurricane hashtag was trending online. Photo / Supplied
The hurricane hashtag was trending online. Photo / Supplied
'... and prayers': This picture had over a thousand likes. Photo / Supplied
'... and prayers': This picture had over a thousand likes. Photo / Supplied

Hurricane Dorian unleashed massive flooding across the Bahamas yesterday, pummeling the islands with so much wind and water that authorities urged people to find flotation devices and grab hammers to break out of their attics if necessary.

The fearsome category 4 storm slowed almost to a standstill as it shredded roofs, hurled cars and forced even rescue crews to take shelter until the onslaught passed.

Officials said they received a "tremendous" number of calls from people in flooded homes.

A radio station received more than 2000 distress messages, including reports of a five-month-old baby stranded on a roof and a grandmother with six grandchildren who cut a hole in a roof to escape rising floodwaters.

Other reports involved a group of eight children and five adults stranded on a highway and two storm shelters that flooded.

'My heart goes out to the families that lost their homes'. . . Photo / Supplied
'My heart goes out to the families that lost their homes'. . . Photo / Supplied

Forecasters warned that Dorian could generate a storm surge as high as seven metres.

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Police Chief Samuel Butler urged people to remain calm and share their GPS co-ordinates, but he said rescue crews had to wait until weather conditions improved.

"We simply cannot get to you," he told Bahamas radio station ZNS.

Thoughts and prayers. Photo / Supplied
Thoughts and prayers. Photo / Supplied

On nearby Abaco Island, parliament member Darren Henfield said he received reports of deaths but officials had not been able to confirm them.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the National Hurricane Centre extended watches and warnings across the Florida and Georgia coasts.

Forecasters expected Dorian to stay off shore, but meteorologist Daniel Brown cautioned "only a small deviation" could draw the storm's dangerous core toward land.

By 2pm EDT Monday, the storm's top sustained winds fell slightly to 240km/h. It was crawling along Grand Bahama Island at just 2km/h.

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The water reached roofs and the tops of palm trees. One woman filmed water lapping at the stairs of her home's second floor.

In Freeport, Dave Mackey recorded video showing water and floating debris surging around his house as the wind shrieked outside.

"Our house is 15 feet up, and right now where that water is about 8 feet. So we're pretty concerned right now because we're not at high tide," said Mr Mackey, who shared the video with The Associated Press.

"Our garage door has already come off. … Once we come out of it with our lives, we're happy."

On Sunday, Dorian churned over Abaco Island with battering winds and surf and heavy flooding.

Mr Henfield described the damage as "catastrophic" and said officials did not have information on what happened on nearby cays.

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"We are in search-and-recovery mode. … Continue to pray for us," he said.

Most people went to shelters as the storm neared. Tourist hotels shut down, and residents boarded up their homes. Many people were expected to be left homeless.

Hurricane dorian has claimed at least five lives and displaced thousands. Photo / AP
Hurricane dorian has claimed at least five lives and displaced thousands. Photo / AP

On Sunday, Dorian's maximum sustained winds reached 297km/h, with gusts up to 354km/h, tying the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to make landfall.

That equalled the Labour Day hurricane of 1935 before storms were named.

The only recorded storm that was more powerful was Hurricane Allen in 1980, with 305km/h winds, though it did not make landfall at that strength.

The Bahamas archipelago is no stranger to hurricanes. Homes are required to have metal reinforcements for roof beams to withstand winds into the upper limits of a category 4 hurricane, and compliance is generally tight for those who can afford it. Risks are higher in poorer neighbourhoods that have wooden homes in low-lying areas.

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- with additional reporting by AP