One of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic has decimated the OECS member island of Barbuda, destroying approximately 95 percent of homes and leaving at least one person dead, officials say.
Hurricane Irma struck Barbuda early Wednesday morning with maximum sustained winds of 185mph.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the scale of the destruction was heart wrenching and absolutely devastating.
A 2-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm, Browne told the AP.
Browne, who flew over the island Wednesday afternoon to survey the destruction, said Barbuda was “barely habitable”.
“From my observation, having done an aerial survey, I would say that about 95% of the properties would have suffered some level of damage. They would have lost at least a part of their roofs. Some have lost whole roofs. Some properties have been totally demolished. It is absolutely heart-wrenching, Browne said.
The Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister said the utilities and physical infrastructure has been damaged and the island remains under water.
He placed the cost of the destruction on Barbuda at around $150 million.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted Irma would remain at Category 4 or 5 for the next day or two as passes just to the north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday, nears the Turks & Caicos and parts of the Bahamas by Thursday night and skirts Cuba on Friday night into Saturday.
It will then likely head north toward Florida.