Hurricane Irma slams into Caribbean islands

Hurricane Irma destroyed more than 90 percent of the structures on Barbuda when the eye of the Category Five storm made landfall early Wednesday. The tiny island was reduced to rubble, according to Gaston Brown, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda.

WASHINGTON – The deaths of at least 10 people in the Caribbean are being blamed on Hurricane Irma, officials said – ncluding six on St. Martin, which was devastated by the record storm.

Two deaths were reported in St. Barts, one was reported in Anguilla, and a surfer was reportedly killed in Barbados. So far, 23 injuries have been reported. But several officials said they expect casualties to rise. Irma devastated St. Martin, Barbuda and Tortola, officials said. Barbuda suffered “total devastation,” with more than 90 percent of the structures destroyed and 60 percent of the population of about 1,800 were left homeless, according to the prime minister of the twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

“The entire housing stock was damaged,” said Gaston Browne, who flew over Barbuda on Wednesday. A 2-year-old child was killed while evacuating, he said. Water and phone service have been disrupted, he said. Earlier, Browne had expressed relief on Facebook that Antigua was mostly spared from the worst of Irma. But St. Martin was not as lucky. The French territory is “95 percent destroyed” according to Daniel Gibbs, president of the territorial council that oversees the tony resort destination, after it took a direct hit from the eye of the hurricane.

The storm demolished four of St. Martin’s “most solid” buildings, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters Wednesday. Residents and tourists have been left without drinking water or electricity. President Donald Trump owns a home on St. Martin that has been listed for sale for $16.9 million.

The Dutch side of the island, St. Maarten, also suffered extensive damage, aerial images released by the Dutch Defense Ministry show. Video shot from a navy helicopter on Wednesday evening shows waterfront hotels with badly damaged roofs. St. Maarten’s airport also was hit hard.

The airport is well-known because landing planes skim over tourists on an adjacent beach. Dutch Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk told reporters that the destruction on the island was “enormous.” President Donald Trump owns a home on St. Martin that he has listed for sale for $16.9 million.

Irma severely damaged this car on Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands, on Wednesday.

Irma also clobbered the British Virgin Islands, with the largest, Tortola, apparently suffering her worst wrath in the chain of isles. St. Barts, another French Caribbean island, also was hit hard and power was reportedly knocked out.

The French government said that it has dispatched emergency response teams to both islands and that it had delivered water and food. Irma battered St. Thomas, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Many residents reported damaged homes and missing roofs. More than a foot of rain reportedly fell on the island.

In Puerto Rico, at least 1.5 million residents and businesses were left without electricity after Irma passed over the northern part of the island, bringing floods and strong winds. U.S. officials have declared a health emergency on the island.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the dangerous core of the storm will move away from Puerto Rico Thursday morning and is expected to pass just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, before passing the Cuba and parts of the Bahamas, followed by Turks and Caicos. Hurricane warnings are in effect for all those locations.

Storm surges of 15-20 feet have been reported in the southern Bahamas as well as in Turks and Caicos, which could take a direct hit from Irma by Thursday evening, the Weather Channel predicts. The airport in Turks and Caicos is 15 feet above sea level.

Meanwhile, South Florida residents also are bracing for Irma. About 2,000 people have already been evacuated from The Keys, which has been under a mandatory order. Mandatory evacuations from coastal areas of Miami-Dade County are scheduled to start Thursday morning.

Florida is expected to feel the effects of the storm by the weekend, forecasters are predicting. Georgia and the Carolinas – which have all declared states of emergency –could be affected by early next week. The United Nations has estimated Hurricane Irma ultimately could affect as many 37 million people.

As of 8 a.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center said the eye of Irma was located about 110 miles north of the Dominican Republic with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph, and was moving north-northwest at a speedy 17 mph.

This article is republished with permission from Talk Media News.