6 September 2017
Destruction on St. Maarten, one of several eastern Caribbean islands
devastated by Hurricane Irma. | Photo: Dr. Mark Williams
Barbuda’s Prime Minister says more than 90 percent of buildings are damaged and the island is almost uninhabitable.
Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful and longest lasting Category 5 storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, has caused devastation in Barbuda and several other islands in the northeastern Caribbean. So far at least eight deaths have been reported, one in Barbuda, one in Puerto Rico and six in the French territory of Saint Martin.
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Still packing sustained winds of almost 300 kph, the eye of the hurricane was passing 80 kilometers north of Puerto Rico on Wednesday night, bringing heavy rain to the capital San Juan. It was expected to hit the north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday.
The death toll in Saint Martin is likely to rise, according to the prefect of Guadeloupe, which administers the island. “The police and firecrews couldn’t go out until mid morning because of the strength of the wind,” Eric Maire said. “We haven’t explored all parts of the island, and may find more casualties.” Other reports said that aboout 90 percent of properties had suffered damage in Saint Martin.
Flooded Harbour, Saint Martin
Neighboring Saint Bathelemy, which also belongs to France, and St. Maarten, which belongs to the Netherlands, suffered heavy damage as well. The Princess Juliana airport in St. Maarten was largely destroyed, with huge rocks crashing into planes and terminal buildings.
The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, visited Barbuda during the day on Wednesday and reported that 90 percent of buildings there had been severely damaged. The island with 1800 inhabitants had been completely cut off since the hurricane hit just before 2am.
The Prime Minister said one infant was killed, and that the death toll may rise. TeleSUR English spoke to the Deputy Director of News, Sports and Current Affairs at ABS TV/Radio Nicola Barriteau, she says while Antigua was spared most of Irma’s wrath, Barbuda received the full brunt of the Hurricane.
Destroyed houses in Barbuda
Earlier Prime Minister Gaston Browne issued a statement which noted that a “chain of brotherhood and sisterhood that strengthened our collective resolve” as well as government preparation prior to the storm’s arrival “paid remarkable dividends.”
It is important to note that the storm had knocked out communications with the Barbuda. And the weather made it difficult for the Prime Minister to get to the island before the afternoon, where he was able to see the effects for himself.
Over in St. Kitts and Nevis the Island’s Police Commissioner Ian Queeley communicated with the New York Times via text saying “Not too bad at this time. Still plenty rain and strong winds.”
Meanwhile, officials on the French-controlled islands of Saint-Barthelemy and Saint-Martin stated that the storm had caused severe destruction. It’s been reported that two persons were killed by the storm. The Times is reporting French President Emanuel Macron as saying, “We will have victims to lament, and the material damage on the two islands is considerable.” He made the statement after a crisis meeting about the Hurricane in Paris.
Meteorological satellite radars tracking Hurricane Irma’s “potentially catastrophic” path indicate that the storm is likely to reach St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico Wednesday.
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
A Facebook live feed from St. Martin showed images of the devastating winds hitting the island, as it makes it way next toward Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
In the coming days, it is expected to reach the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba and will possibly pass over the U.S. state of Florida by the weekend, remaining a powerful Category 4 or 5 hurricane throughout, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Hurricane Irma’s sheer power transgressed human ingenuity by registering on seismometers, equipment designed specifically to measure earthquakes. It is the most powerful hurricane recorded in some 30 years.
But the region is also under threat from Hurricane Jose, and now Katia. Accuweather says the current projection for Hurricane Jose may take it just over the areas struck by Irma, but they will not be spared heavy rainfall. Hurricane Katia is in the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s not expected to move much further than its current location.
In the state of Florida, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties in the state, saying, “In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared.”
Boats secured at Point Warf dock. Photo: ABS Screenshot
Miami-Dade County has begun taking special-needs patients to secure locations, Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced.
Schools in Broward County, in the city of Miami, will be closed Thursday and Friday in preparation for the storm. A list of evacuation zones has been posted, although Broward is not on that list at this time.
In Puerto Rico, Governor Ricardo Rossello activated the national guard after the NHC declared a hurricane watch for the island. Rossello said government agencies in the U.S.-held territory were prepared to deal with any emergencies caused by the storm. “We have established protocols for the safety of all,” he said at a news conference.