Hurricane Irma has caused widespread destruction to properties and people as it barrels through the Caribbean. At least 5 people have died as the Category 5 storm, recorded to be the most powerful hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean, crossed the U.S. Virgin Islands and moved toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic Haiti and Cuba on Wednesday.
Officials earlier said that 10 people had been killed but have since reduced the number of people killed on St. Martin from eight to four. Here’s what to know about the hurricane’s impact in the Caribbean and its path towards Florida:
What damage has Irma caused in the Caribbean?
Irma first hit the islands of Antigua & Barbuda causing widespread destruction early on Wednesday. The nation’s Prime Minister said that the islands were “barely inhabitable”, that 95% of buildings had been destroyed and 60% of the population were now homeless. Roads and telecommunications have been wiped out.
A two-year-old boy is confirmed to have died in the storm as his family tried to escape a building damaged by the storm. Residents on Barbuda are expected to be evacuated to the larger island of Antigua, where the damage was less severe.
The storm next passed over Anguilla, where one person has died and Ronald Jackson, executive director of the Caribbean disaster and emergency management agency, said that “police stations, hospitals, school facilities, three or four emergency shelters, a home for the infirm and the aged, as well as the fire station.”
Hurricane Irma did not directly pass over Puerto Rico, travelling north instead. However, about half of the island is thought to be without power as it was hit by winds and floods. Hospitals are working on back-up generators and roads have been destroyed. The Governor of Puerto Rico has said that at least three deaths on the island are being attributed to the storm: one woman was electrocuted, another suffered a fall, and a man died after his car crashed.
Dutch marines have said they are unable to land at the famous Princess Juliana International Airport, making it harder to delivery aid and supplies.
The U.S. Coast Guard has started to conduct assessments of the storm by flying over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. “Our first priority is ensuring safety of lives and helping anyone in distress,” said Capt Eric King, who is leading the response team.
On Thursday morning, it was north-east of the Dominican Republic and heading towards Turks and Caicos. Officials have cut the electricity on South Caicos for safety. Hurricane watches have been issued for south Florida.
What is the death toll so far?
The death toll across the Caribbean has risen to at least 10, according to France’s interior minister. That figure is expected to rise as rescue teams search the island at daybreak.
When will Hurricane Irma move toward Florida and South Carolina?
Hurricane Irma is predicted to hit Florida and move north toward South Carolina this weekend, potentially bringing heavy rains, strong winds and flash flooding to the states. Both Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are under a state of emergency.
Reuters reported that Hurricane Irma is considered likely to drop to a Category 4 storm once it makes landfall in Florida.
What was the last Category 5 hurricane to hit the Caribbean?
The Caribbean islands have not seen a hurricane this large since Hurricane San Felipe in 1928, according to the National Weather Service. That storm killed a total of 2,748 people in Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe and Florida.