Irish family's relief as Baby Maebh arrives just hours before Hurricane Irma hits islands
- Hurricane Irma has killed at least 14 people according to reports
- Islands across Caribbean told to prepare for storm surges
- Irishman describes family's relief as Baby Maebh arrives just hours before hurricane
- Family 'hunkered down' in hotel as they wait for storm surge to pass
AN Irishman in Turks and Caicos has spoken of his family's relief after their newborn Maebh was born just hours before Hurricane Irma hit.
Joe Ryan, his wife Claire and their two children Oisín and Maebh are now staying in a hotel as they wait for the storm surge to pass.
The Turks and Caicos Islands government have 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.
The islands were "pummelled" overnight by Hurricane Irma as winds of up to 175mph left death and destruction in the Atlantic, according to weather reports.
Speaking to RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, Joe Ryan said they moved out of their home because it is located on low-lying land.
"The main reason we moved is because where we are is low lying," Joe told the programme.
"We were set up, we had a generator and we had our windows boarded up but we knew if water came in we couldn't stay there."
Joe and Claire welcomed their second child yesterday, and said they grew anxious as the due date passed.
"The baby was due to come on Saturday, then things happened and it went over its due date.
"We were getting anxious as the storm got closer.
"Claire went into labour yesterday and delivered the baby, we're so lucky that she didn't have to stay in hospital.
"Maebh came in just the nick of time. We're all together now in the hotel"
- Read more: 'It's like the Day After Tomorrow' - Former Dublin Mayor says Miami is 'preparing for the worst'
He continued; "It was one of those situations where we were just hoping and praying the child would come on her due date, that didn't happen, and we got more and more anxious as day after day passed.
"It would have been horrendous for Claire to have to go to hospital on her own, because I would have had to mind Oisín, we were very grateful that the baby came and she's fit and healthy.
"We're all in the hotel together and we're very grateful."
Joe said the couple are now dreading to see the aftermath of the storm.
"We feel safe where we are in the hotel, we've no chance of being hit.
"For now we feel good, but this is all new to us.
"This is a storm nobody has witnessed before so we're hunkered down and we'll see what happens.
"I'm more concerned about waking up and seeing where we'll go from here."
Former Lord Mayor of Dublin, Royston Brady, said Miami is in a state of "pure panic" as the city prepares for Hurricane Irma to make landfall.
"There was a palpable sense of fear when stores started selling out. You couldn’t get water, you couldn’t get gas...pure panic has set in," he told Today with Sean O'Rourke.
"I have seen people fighting over water and food...the highways are jammed...it's gone from living on the set of the Truman Show to living in the Day After Tomorrow."
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."
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
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.