Hurricane Irma leaves trail of death, destruction across Caribbean

The National Hurricane Center said Irma was maintaining Category 5 strength with sustained winds near 185 mph.

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Hurricane Irma howled past Puerto Rico after thrashing several smaller Caribbean islands with roof-ripping winds, drenching rains and pounding surf on a collision course with Florida. Video provided by Reuters
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A picture taken on Sept. 7, shows a flooded street in Gustavia on the French island of St. Barts.(Photo: AFP)

Hurricane Irma left a trail of death and destruction across the Caribbean on Thursday as the Category 5 storm howled past Puerto Rico and headed toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti on its way to Florida. 

At least 10 people have died and authorities are struggling to get aid to small Caribbean islands devastated by the storm’s record 185 mph winds. Barbuda’s prime minister called the island “barely habitable” and St. Martin, an island split between French and Dutch control, experienced such extensive damage that parts of it were completely destroyed.

As of 8 a.m. ET, the center of the storm was located about 110 miles north of the Dominican Republic, moving west-northwest at 17 mph toward the Bahamas.

After skirting Cuba, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade may reach Florida by the weekend and people there have rushed to get prepare for a possible direct hit on the Miami area. 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott called Irma “powerful and deadly” and said the state’s biggest problem is fuel availability for people who have still not left threatened areas.

He said state and federal officials have waived regulations to speed up delivery of fuel from Florida ports and neighboring states.

“We know fuel is very important,” he said. “We are devoting every state resource to addressing this.

He also said the state would provide transport for those who find they do not have enough fuel to get out.

“This is not just a storm you can sit and wait through,” he said.

Communications with areas already hit by Irma have been difficult, and information on damage trickled out. However, authorities cautioned the death toll is likely to rise. Of the dead, one was a 2-year-old from Barbuda, eight were from St. Martin and St. Bart’s and one was from Anguilla, where the British government described the situation as “critical.”

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French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told France Info radio that the toll on St. Martin and St. Bart’s will likely climb as rescue teams have yet to finish their inspection of the islands.

He told reporters that 100,000 food rations have been sent to the islands, the equivalent of four days’ worth. “It’s a tragedy, we’ll need to rebuild both islands,” he said. “Most of the schools have been destroyed.”

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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there are no reports yet of casualties on the Dutch side of St. Martin, but noted the damage was severe with “wide-scale destruction of infrastructure, houses and businesses.”

“There is no power, no gasoline, no running water,” Rutte added. “Houses are under water, cars are floating through the streets, inhabitants are sitting in the dark, in ruined houses and are cut off from the outside world.”

An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on Sept. 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma in Philipsburg, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. (Photo: Gerben Van Es, AFP/Getty Images)

On Puerto Rico, more than half of the island was without power, leaving 900,000 in the dark and nearly 50,000 without water, the U.S. territory’s emergency management agency said. Fourteen hospitals were using generators after losing power, and trees and light poles were strewn across roads.

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If Hurricane Irma is heading your way, be sure to keep these 5 types of provisions on hand in your emergency kit.
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Scott emphasized that Irma would be stronger and larger than Hurricane Andrew, the Category 5 storm that in 1992 killed 65 people in Florida, destroyed more than 63,500 homes and caused $26.5 billion in damage.

Rice reported from McLean, Va.; Hughes from Key Largo, Fla. Contributing: Associated Press 

 

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