Thu, Sep 07, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Category 5 Hurricane Irma slams islands in Caribbean

AP, ST JOHN’S

A handout photo made available by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a geocolor image of Hurricane Irma captured by the agency’s GOES-16 satellite as it strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane in the central Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA

Hurricane Irma early yesterday roared into the Caribbean with record-setting force, shaking people in their homes on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda on a path toward Puerto Rico and possibly Florida by the weekend.

Irma, which was the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded north of the Caribbean and east of the Gulf of Mexico, passed almost directly over Barbuda, the US National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Authorities in the small islands of the eastern Caribbean were still evaluating the situation as the sun rose, although there were widespread reports of flooding and downed trees.

Antiguan police were waiting until the winds dropped before sending helicopters to check on reports of damage in Barbuda. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The island of Anguilla was experiencing “extremely heavy winds and rain,” the Disaster Management Department said, adding that there were reports of flooding, but details were not yet available.

The center of the storm was about 25km west of St Martin and Anguilla at about 8am yesterday, the hurricane center said, adding that it was heading west-northwest at 26kph.

As the eye of storm passed over Barbuda at about 2am, telephone lines went down under heavy rain and howling winds that sent debris flying as people huddled in their homes or government shelters.

In Barbuda, the storm ripped the roof off the island’s police station, forcing officers to seek refuge in the fire station and at the community center that served as an official shelter.

The Category 5 storm also knocked out communication between islands.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 295kph, according to the Hurricane Center.

It said winds would likely fluctuate slightly, but the storm would remain at Category 4 or 5 for the next day or two.

The most dangerous winds, usually nearest to the eye, were forecast to pass near the northern Virgin Islands and near or just north of Puerto Rico yesterday.

US President Donald Trump declared emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and authorities in the Bahamas said they would evacuate six southern islands.

The US National Weather Service said Puerto Rico had not seen a hurricane of Irma’s magnitude since Hurricane San Felipe in 1928, which killed 2,748 people in Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico and Florida.

“The dangerousness of this event is like nothing we’ve ever seen,” Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said. “A lot of infrastructure won’t be able to withstand this kind of force.”

In Florida, people stocked up on drinking water and other supplies.

Florida Governor Rick Scott activated 100 members of the Florida National Guard to be deployed across the state, and 7,000 National Guard members were to report for duty tomorrow when the storm could be approaching the area.

On Monday, Scott declared a state of emergency in all of Florida’s 67 counties.

Officials in the Florida Keys geared up to get tourists and residents out of Irma’s path, and the mayor of Miami-Dade County said people should be prepared to evacuate Miami Beach and most coastal areas.

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