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Reports: Barbuda left ‘barely habitable’ after Irma pummels northern Caribbean islands

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
September 07, 2017, 7:02:00 PM EDT

Irma will continue to pummel the northern Caribbean islands through late week as the massive hurricane leaves a trail of damage in its path.

The storm made a direct hit on Barbuda early Wednesday morning as a Category 5 hurricane before later making a direct hit on the islands of St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Barts and the British Virgin Islands. The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda described Barbuda as "barely habitable" on Wednesday afternoon due to the catastrophic damage left behind by Irma.

The storm will threaten Hispaniola into Thursday night with flooding rain, storm surge and life-threatening winds.

"Farther to the west, residents and interests on the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and eastern Cuba should closely monitor the progression of Major Hurricane Irma,” AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.

irma 9717 pm

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For previous reports of Irma's impacts in the Caribbean click here.

7:00 p.m. AST Thursday: Turks and Caicos are about to experience the worst of Hurricane Irma over the next several hours with the eye passing within miles of the islands. The eye may even pass directly over some of the southern-most islands.

5:30 p.m. AST Thursday: Three more fatalities have been reported in the U.S. Virgin Islands where catastrophic damage was reported.

The worst of the hurricane is approaching the Turks and Caicos Islands with conditions expected to deteriorate throughout the evening.

4:25 p.m. AST Thursday: Irma remains a powerful Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph.

The eye of the storm is located about 65 miles north of the Dominican Republic and will gradually track northwest away from the island into Thursday night. Residents on the island will continue to experience heavy rain and gusty winds as the storm tracks closer to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Flooding rain and storm surge has caused some roads to turn to rivers while strong winds have caused some structures to collapse.

AP DR Thurs eve

A home flattened by Hurricane Irma lies in a pile in Nagua, Dominican Republic, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. Irma cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees. Irma flooded parts of the Dominican Republic when it roared by Thursday, just off the northern coast of the island it shares with Haiti. (AP Photo/Tatiana Fernandez)

1:22 p.m. AST Thursday: President Trump has issued a disaster declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

1:00 p.m. AST Thursday: Royal Caribbean is putting its employees and their dependents aboard one of its own ships to get them out of Hurricane Irma's path.

The ship became available after a scheduled trip to the Bahamas was canceled due to Irma. The ship will now be used as a source of evacuation for these families. The ship is set to depart Friday to go out to blue skies and calm seas, and then to return to the Port of Miami once it has reopened.

11:45 a.m. AST Thursday: After already taking a hit from Irma, Antigua and Barbuda face the next approaching storm, Hurricane Jose. The government of Antigua issued a hurricane watch for the islands of Antigua and Barbuda for Jose, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A Hurricane warning is in effect for:

  • Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the northern border with Haiti
  • Haiti from the northern border with the Dominican Republic to Le Mole St. Nicholas
  • Southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Central Bahamas
  • Northwestern Bahama

8:30 a.m. AST Thursday: Shocking videos continue to be released on social media showing the devastation of the storm.

Northern islands of the Caribbeanm continue to urge citizens to take necessary safety precautions. Turks and Caicos lies next on Irma's path. The nation continues to issue hurricane warnings and preparation steps.

All of the Bahamas is under hurricane warning. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) fully activated the National Emergency Operations Centre this morning.

6:40 a.m. AST Thursday:

5:45 a.m. AST Thursday: At least 10 people have died in the Caribbean in the wake of Major Hurricane Irma.

French officials reportedly said that at least eight people have died and 23 are injured on St. Martin and St. Barts.

One person has also been confirmed dead in Anguilla, and a two-year-old child was killed in Barbuda.

The Caribbean Disaster Management Agency also said that about 90 percent of the roads in Anguilla are impassible.

5 a.m. AST Thursday:

#nojoke #irma #cnn

A post shared by Bill (@justanothergypsychef) on

A hurricane warning has been issued for the northwestern Bahamas. Similar warnings have been lifted for Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra.

2:30 a.m. AST Thursday: The death toll from Irma in the Caribbean keeps rising. According to the Guardian, at least six people died in St. Martin and one person died in Anguilla. This brings the total to at least eight killed and 23 others injured.

Local officials say the French region of St. Martin is "95 percent destroyed" in the wake of Irma.

While Hurricane Irma’s maximum wind speeds have dropped from 185 to 180 mph, it is still a strong Category 5 storm. The worst of the storm is over in hard-hit Barbuda, Anguilla, U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, but conditions will deteriorate through Thursday morning for Hispaniola and Turcs and Caicos Islands. Hurricane-force winds, coastal flooding and torrential rainfall will be most destructive for Turks and Caicos, since the islands are in the direct path of Irma. 

1:30 a.m. AST Thursday: At least two people have died and two more injured on the islands of St. Martin and St. Barts. CBS News says word came from French Overseas Affairs Minister Annick Girardin before she headed to Guadeloupe. No other information is available at this time.

The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas is offering passenger seats to U.S. citizens evacuating Nassau. The embassy released a statement saying it is evacuating certain Embassy staff and their families, while seats for U.S, citizens are available on a first come, first serve basis. Two separate flights will be departing Thursday.

12:30 a.m. AST Wednesday:

10:35 p.m. AST Wednesday: Over 1 million people are without power in Puerto Rico as the eye of Hurricane Irma passes just north of the island. Irma remains a powerful Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph.

The worst of the winds have stayed just north of the island near the eye of the storm, but heavy rain and feet of storm surge have flooded roads across the island.

AP Flooding car wed nigh

This Sept. 6, 2017 photo provided by the Dutch Defense Ministry shows a few of the homes that remained intact in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in St. Maarten. Irma cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees. Significant damage was reported on the island that is split between French and Dutch control. (Gerben Van Es/Dutch Defense Ministry via AP)

9:10 p.m. AST Wednesday: Prime Minister Gaston Browne described the destruction on Barbuda as unprecedented and said that the island is barely habitable.

Nearly every building on the island was damaged and about 60 percent of the island’s residents were left homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told the Associated Press.

Barbuda took a direct hit from Irma with winds strong enough to snap cell phone towers across the islands.

Saint Martin was another island hit hard by Irma with winds strong enough to strip vegetation of its leaves.

8:35 p.m. AST Wednesday: A public health emergency has been declared in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in response to Hurricane Irma.

This announcement came just as the eye of Irma was passing 50 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico with winds of 185 mph.

Over 600,000 people are without power and another 50,000 without water in Puerto Rico. This number is likely to rise as Irma lashes the island into Thursday.

As many as 37 million people may be affected by Irma, the United Nations said on Wednesday evening.

7:55 p.m. AST Wednesday: The United States have issued mandatory evacuation orders for the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos ahead of Hurricane Irma.

Some flights have been scheduled to help people evacuate these areas before it becomes too dangerous for planes to operate in the area.

6:20 p.m. AST Wednesday: Widespread destruction has been reported across Barbuda with a significant number of houses being completely destroyed.

The worst of the winds and rain from Hurricane Irma have ended over the island of around 1,700 people, but the island will need to remain on alert as Hurricane Jose threatens in the coming days.

The government has confirmed at least one death on Barbuda, according to the Associated Press.

5:35 p.m. AST Wednesday: Pictures and reports of damage from Irma continue to emerge on social media, showing the destruction the hurricane left behind across some of the islands in the Lesser Antilles.

At least two fatalities occurred in France's Caribbean territories, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, due to Irma, Reuters reported. This is in addition to the surfer that died in Barbados after getting caught in rough surf.

4:15 p.m. AST Wednesday: According to the government of Puerto Rico, all communities that are in the floodplain areas of 18 municipalities must evacuate immediately and go to the nearest shelter.

The list of the municipalities can be found below in a graphic Tweeted out by Gov. Ricardo Rossello.

2:34 p.m. AST Wednesday: A report from Loop News in Barbados said that the Princess Juliana Airport in St. Martin was destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

Elsewhere, a surfer reportedly died in Barbados after getting caught in rough surf.

1:30 p.m. AST Wednesday: The National Hurricane Center says the eye of Hurricane Irma is passing over the British Virgin Islands and will approach Puerto Rico later this afternoon or evening.

12:36 p.m. AST Wednesday: Anguilla's Chief Minister Victor Banks told the Attorney General of Anguilla, John Mckendrick, that the island is badly affected by the storm and that relief efforts are underway.

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