Islanders seek shelter from Hurricane Irma

Islanders seek shelter from Hurricane Irma

BBC:-Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, has hit the Caribbean, with officials warning of its “potentially catastrophic” effects.

The category five hurricane, the highest possible level, has sustained wind speeds reaching 300km/h (185mph).

It first hit Antigua and Barbuda, before moving on to French islands Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin.

It is then expected to move on towards Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

In the US, Florida’s Key West area has ordered a mandatory evacuation.

The eye of the storm hit the island of Barbuda, which has a population of around 2,000 people, at about 02:00 local time (06:00 GMT).

Winds gusted at 250km/h, before the recording equipment broke and no further readings were received.

“Early indications seem to show that Antigua has not been too badly hit, but we cannot say the same for Barbuda as we don’t yet know,” reported Antigua’s ABS radio.

The Antigua Observer said it had received initial reports of roofs being blown off on both islands.

It has now moved on to the French islands Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin.

There have also been concerns for St Kitts and Nevis. President Timothy Harris said on Twitter: “All of our national security agencies have been fully mobilised and are on the highest alert.”

Thousands of people have been evacuated from at-risk areas across the Caribbean. Residents have flocked to shops for food, water, and emergency supplies.

Airports have closed on several islands, which are popular holiday destinations, and authorities have urged people to go to public shelters.

There have also been concerns for St Kitts and Nevis. President Timothy Harris said on Twitter: “All of our national security agencies have been fully mobilised and are on the highest alert.”

Thousands of people have been evacuated from at-risk areas across the Caribbean. Residents have flocked to shops for food, water, and emergency supplies.

Airports have closed on several islands, which are popular holiday destinations, and authorities have urged people to go to public shelters.

The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said Irma¬†was moving at a speed of 24km/h (15mph), saying that the storm was “potentially catastrophic”.

There are hurricane warnings for:

  • Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis
  • Saba, St Eustatius and Sint Maarten
  • Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy
  • The British Virgin Islands
  • The US Virgin Islands
  • Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra
  • Dominican Republic, for the northern region
  • Guadeloupe

The islands’ populations range from about 2,000 each on Barbuda, Saba and Culebra, to 3.5 million in Puerto Rico.

Haiti, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the south-eastern Bahamas are on hurricane watch.

US President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, mobilising federal disaster relief efforts for those areas.

In Florida’s Key West, visitors will be required to leave on Wednesday morning, with residents due to follow in the evening.

“We’re emphatically telling people you must evacuate. You cannot afford to stay on an island with a category five hurricane coming at you,” said Martin Senterfitt, the emergency operations centre director in Monroe County in Florida.

The Bahamas is also launching the “largest evacuation in its history”, according to Prime Minister Hubert Minnis. Plans have been made to fly residents from the south-east islands to the safer capital, Nassau, on Wednesday.

In Puerto Rico, a 75-year-old man died during preparations for the storm.

Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello said the situation on the island was “something without precedent”, as 460 emergency shelters were prepared, according to Reuters news agency.

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