Vastavam web: Hurricane Irma ripped through the Caribbean today, leaving a trail of devastation and killing 17 as it barrelled towards the United States where up to a million people have been told to flee.So far, 1.2 million people have been affected by Irma, the Red Cross said.But that number looks set to rise and could reach as high as 26 million, the agency said.Roaring across the Caribbean, the rare Category Five hurricane laid waste to a series of tiny islands like St Martin, where 60 percent of homes were wrecked, before slamming into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
By this morning, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) had downgraded Irma to Category Four with maximum wind speeds of up to 250 kilometres per hour while warning it was still extremely dangerous.On many islands, violent winds have ripped roofs and facades off buildings, hurling lumps of concrete, cars and even shipping containers aside.Another four people were killed on the US Virgin Islands, with the governor’s office saying a number of badly injured people had been airlifted to Puerto Rico.
One person died in tiny Barbuda which also suffered “absolute devastation,” with 300 people evacuated to Antigua and up to 30 per cent of properties demolished.St Martin, a pristine island resort divided between France and the Netherlands, also suffered the full fury of the storm, as did the French island of St Barthelemy.Six out of 10 homes were left uninhabitable, with insurers in Paris estimating their overall costs would likely be “much higher” than 200 million euros (USD 240 million).
On the Dutch side of St Martin, one person died, officials said. Dutch King Willem-Alexander will head to the island of Curacao to the south on Sunday for a briefing on the aid operation, and may travel on to St Martin, officials said.”It’s as if a bomb went off. Before everything was so beautiful and green here. Now everything is as grey as a Dutch winter,” retired police officer Klaas Groen told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.Britain’s defence ministry said it was sending two military transport planes to the region carrying personnel, supplies and recovery equipment.
As European nations quickly mobilized to help their citizens in the Caribbean, French and Dutch ministers said they were sending hundreds of extra police to St Martin tackle a spate of “looting”.The storm has caused major shortages of food, water and petrol.”The situation is serious,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said today when asked about reports of looting on the island.French Overseas Territories Minister Annick Girardin said 400 police officers would be deployed after seeing “pillaging right in front of us” in St Martin where most of the 80,000 inhabitants have lost their homes.
In the Dominican Republic, torrential rain and powerful winds whipped the northern and eastern coasts, leaving 17 districts cut off.Nearly 20,000 people were evacuated and more than 100 houses destroyed.And in Cuba, some 10,000 foreign tourists were evacuated from beach resorts as authorities hiked the disaster alert level to maximum.After going for a walk along the beach in Miami, theology professor James Nickolos, 69, spoke of a sense of impending doom.
“I had the feeling of watching a great beauty walking on a gang-plank to their death,” he said.Trump said he was “very concerned” about the situation but insisted Florida was “well prepared” for the storm.As Irma cut through the Caribbean, two other storms in the region were upgraded to hurricane status: Jose in the Atlantic Ocean and Katia in the Gulf of Mexico.Katia is expected to hit the coast of the Mexico today, while Jose a Category Three storm is following Irma’s path, the NHC said.