Wednesday 22 November 2017

British territory 'pummelled' as Hurricane Irma continues trail of destruction

A storm batters as Hurricane Irma descends on Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, in this still image taken from September 7, 2017 social media video. Photo: Aneesa Khan/via Reuters
A storm batters as Hurricane Irma descends on Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, in this still image taken from September 7, 2017 social media video. Photo: Aneesa Khan/via Reuters
A storm batters as Hurricane Irma descends on Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, in this still image taken from September 7, 2017 social media video. Photo: Aneesa Khan/via Reuters
View of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Sint Maarten Dutch part of Saint Martin island in the Caribbean September 6, 2017. Picture taken September 6, 2017. Netherlands Ministry of Defence/Handout
Locals stand next to a damaged road as Hurricane Irma moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Nagua, Dominican Republic, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
A man walks among debris as Hurricane Irma moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Nagua, Dominican Republic, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
Locals rest in a shelter as Hurricane Irma moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Nagua, Dominican Republic, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
Angie Rodriguez (C) sits with her grandson at their home during a blackout after Hurricane Irma rolled by the U.S. territory's northern coast, in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
A woman takes cover from the rain as Hurricane Irma moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Nagua, Dominican Republic, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
A local stands next to a damaged house as Hurricane Irma moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Nagua, Dominican Republic, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

Alexander Britton

A British territory has been "pummelled" overnight by Hurricane Irma as winds of up to 175mph left death and destruction in the Atlantic.

The Turks and Caicos Islands government declared a national shutdown as the category five storm continued to tear across the Caribbean, with life-threatening wind, rain and a storm surge expected into tomorrow.

A woman stands next to a damaged house as Hurricane Irma moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Nagua, Dominican Republic, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
A woman stands next to a damaged house as Hurricane Irma moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Nagua, Dominican Republic, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

Irma, which continues to be a "potentially catastrophic" hurricane, has killed at least 14 people according to reports, with islands across the region told to prepare for storm surges.

The hurricane's ruinous touch, which has already reduced the island of Barbuda to wreckage, will also be felt in nearby Haiti as the storm sweeps north west.

Meanwhile, the British Virgin Islands said they were confident of being able to rebuild after houses were reduced to foundations following the "devastating" storm.

Images posted on social media showed entire structures razed to the ground, with debris scattered across the streets.

Sharon Flax-Brutus, director of tourism for the group of more than 60 islands, said: "The destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands has been devastating.

"The destination has lost entire structures and many homes are without roofs, or have been diminished to merely foundations."

A storm batters as Hurricane Irma descends on Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, in this still image taken from September 7, 2017 social media video. Photo: Aneesa Khan/via Reuters
A storm batters as Hurricane Irma descends on Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, in this still image taken from September 7, 2017 social media video. Photo: Aneesa Khan/via Reuters

She added communication between the islands has been difficult as mobile phone towers had come down - meaning it was tricky to gauge the full extent of the damage.

Irma was first classified as a tropical storm on August 30 and rapidly intensified over the following days, becoming a category four hurricane on September 4.

Then, winds reached a peak of 130mph, but soon became the strongest for more than a decade when sustained winds peaked at 185mph.

Saint Martin, which has already been victim to Irma, is now facing a new threat in the form of Jose, while the British territories of Anguilla and Montserrat are on alert for a tropical storm.

Irish tourists believed to be holidaying in the Caribbean have been warned to follow evacuation orders while some have been advised to stay in their hotel rooms.

State of Emergency in Florida

A damaged house is pictured as Hurricane Irma moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Nagua, Dominican Republic, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
A damaged house is pictured as Hurricane Irma moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Nagua, Dominican Republic, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas

States of emergency have been declared in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida, where the storm is due to make landfall this weekend.

In Fort Lauderdale, 40-year-old Erik Petersen described the atmosphere as "pretty tense" - adding there was much more worry than last year, when the Sunshine State braced for Hurricane Matthew.

The dual American-British citizen told the Press Association: "People aren't just talking about this as a hurricane, they're taking about it as the hurricane.

"I've had a few people ask if I'm considering going somewhere else in Florida, but this thing's the size of Texas. Roads are clogged, hotels are full, gas is running low.

"I'd rather face this thing in a house in Fort Lauderdale than in a car in a traffic jam somewhere outside Orlando."

Mr Petersen, who lived in the UK for 11 years and most recently called Nottingham his home city, is riding out the storm with his 36-year-old wife Jo and their six-year-old daughter Anya.

He said he was expecting lots of damage and said power could be out for weeks.

"With no electricity or air conditioning, you get used to stinking. Some people have generators. Unfortunately, we don't," he said.

"Luckily we do have a gas oven, so we can cook without electricity.

"Anya largely sees this as a big camp-out or adventure, which I suppose is good.

"Jo hasn't been through a hurricane before, but she's been through hurricane prep, so she's in full-on Spirit of Dunkirk/Getting Stuff Done mode.

"My parents have lived here for many years and seen a lot of stuff. They're not panicking, but they're taking this all very seriously."

In response to the unfolding crisis, Theresa May announced that £32 million had been released to assist the relief effort.

Speaking after a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee on Thursday afternoon, the Prime Minister said: "We must not forget that there is a further storm on the way.

"But that won't stop us from providing the assistance that is needed, and doing everything we can to help."

The British military has dispatched a task group of experts into the affected areas of the Atlantic to provide support and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Mounts Bay vessel is transporting supplies.

Addressing concerns about the speed of Britain's response, Mrs May said both humanitarian workers and RFA Mounts Bay had been "prepositioned".

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon added the military vessel is "already at work" clearing roads and helping to restore power.

Press Association

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