Hurricane Irma has left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean, with several major tourism destinations severely affected.
At least ten people have been killed in the wake of the storm, with many more left homeless.
The small island of Barbuda, part of the nation of Antigua & Barbuda, has been left “barely habitable” according to officials, while Saint Martin has been almost completely destroyed.
There are warnings the death toll could rise in both locations.
Irma made landfall as a category five hurricane, the highest possible level, with wind speeds of 180 mph.
In Barbuda nearly all buildings have seen at least some damage from the storm.
However, Antigua remains largely unscathed.
Antigua & Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne said that “The drains, gutters and reservoirs that were cleared in advance, ensured that the island experienced no flooding, hence eliminating the possibility of water-borne disease.
“The essential point is that our main infrastructure has stood-up and our country can resume normal life within hours.”
“The important take away from all this is that Antigua & Barbuda remains open for business and is already resuming normal life including welcoming visitors to enjoy our little bit of paradise which god continues to protect.”
The dual French and Dutch territory of Saint Martin was also badly hit.
Officials there have confirmed at least eight deaths in Saint-Martin and Saint Barthélemy, popularly known as St Barts.
Princess Juliana Airport, the third largest in the region, has also been severely damaged.
In Puerto Rico, more than one and half million residents are without power amid heavy downpours.
Officials there have said that power could be cut off for several days.
A statement from the Caribbean Tourism Association said “As Hurricane Irma churns its way towards the northern Leeward Islands and the northern Caribbean, including the Bahamas, Cuba and Haiti as a dangerous category five storm, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation expresses concern for residents and visitors in the countries that are in the hurricane’s projected path, and pray that the impact will be reduced.
“We have been in contact with our members and they assure us that they have been taking all the necessary steps to ensure that they are in a state of readiness.
“We take this storm seriously.
“The safety of the Caribbean’s citizens and our visitors is the number one concern for the authorities and emergency response teams throughout the region.”
In North America, flights to and from several airports in Florida have been suspended.
Orlando International Airport said it would suspend commercial flights at 17:00 on Saturday.
A state of emergency had been declared for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, mobilising federal disaster relief efforts.
Image courtesy United States National Hurricane Center
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