Hurricane Irma has devastated several Caribbean islands, including Barbuda, Saint Martin and the British Virgin Islands. It has destroyed marinas and port facilities as its 185mph winds make their way northward towards south Florida. Nine people are reported to have died.
According to the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, around 95% of the buildings in Barbuda have been damaged. Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the island was now “barely inhabitable” and estimated it would cost US$100m to rebuild.
Saint Martin’s ports have also been decimated by the storm, according to news reports. The airport tower on the French side of the island has collapsed, while its harbour facilities have been destroyed. That means that no ships can come in with supplies. Reports online said that Dutch defence aircraft are flying to the island to assess the best way to open a direct route from the Dutch island of Curacao to move supplies to Saint Martin.
Tortola in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has also been hit badly. Photos show buildings in Road Town looking as though they have been bombed out. The capital’s landmark building, Scotia Bank, has been completely destroyed. The “hurricane hole” at Paraqita Bay, where charter fleets from The Moorings MarineMax and others are based, was also badly damaged. Photos on social media show dozens of boats piled on top of each other in a corner of the marina. Other images of another BVI marina are filled with half-sunken vessels.
Puerto Rico was spared a direct hit, but heavy winds and torrential rains have knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of residents.
The eye of the storm is now moving off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, making its way towards Florida. Irma is one of three active hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. Hurricane Jose is now in the open Atlantic far to the southeast of Irma. Katia in the Gulf of Mexico has also become a hurricane as it churns north off the coast of Mexico.