Hurricane Irma causes devastation across the Caribbean, heading for Florida

Hurricane Irma has already caused widespread destruction across the Caribbean, flattening buildings and leaving at least nine people dead

Palm trees buckle under winds and rain as Hurricane Irma slammed across islands in the northern Caribbean. Photo: ABC news
Palm trees buckle under winds and rain as Hurricane Irma slammed across islands in the northern Caribbean. Photo: ABC news

Following the wrath of hurricane Irma, Antigua and Barbuda, with a population of over 90,000 is said to be “barely habitable”. Officials warn that St Martin is almost destroyed and the death toll is likely to rise. The category 5 hurricane, the highest possible degree, is currently passing north of Puerto Rico.

More than half of the island’s residents were left without power as Irma caused heavy downpours and strong winds. Officials claim that the power could be cut off for several days.

Irma first struck the dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, where at least 1 death, of a child has been reported on Barbuda, so far. Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that around 95% of the buildings have suffered some damage.

“It’s absolute devastation”, he said, after flying over the island. “The island is literally under-water. In fact, I’m of the view that, as it stands now, Barbuda is barely habitable”.

He said that 50% of the Barbuda population were now homeless and that it would cost 100 million US dollars to rebuild the island.

He went on to say however that Antigua escaped major damage, with no loss of life.

In the French territories of St Martin and Saint Barthelemy, popularly known as St Barts, officials have confirmed at least eight deaths and considerable damage to property in the areas.

“It’s an enormous catastrophe – 95% of the island is destroyed”, local official Daniel Gibbs said.

Sint-Maarten's airport, the third largest in the Caribbean, has also been destroyed.

The Dutch defence ministry said: "The picture is of many uprooted trees, houses without roofs and pleasure boats on land."

US President Donald Trump said he and his aides were monitoring Irma's progress. "But it looks like it could be something that will be not good. Believe me, not good," he told reporters at the White House.

Projections suggest it could hit the state of Florida on Sunday.

Flights to and from several airports in Florida were being suspended, while Orlando's international airport said that commercial flights would stop from 17:00 local time on Saturday.

A state of emergency had been declared for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, mobilising federal disaster relief efforts.

Another storm, Jose, further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, swelled to category one hurricane strength and could be near major hurricane strength on Friday, according to the US National Hurricane Centre.

Although its path was not clear, Jose could hit some areas already affected by Irma.

Storm Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, was also upgraded to hurricane status and a warning was in effect for the coast of the Mexican state of Veracruz.

Seeing multiple storms developing in the same area of the Atlantic in close succession is not uncommon at this time of year.

Rarer though is the strength of the hurricanes.

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