Powerful Hurricane Irma batters Leeward Islands

On Tuesdays Hurricane Irma with sustained winds of 185 mph impacted the Caribbean islands of Antigua, Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis. Early Wednesday morning the hurricane devastated the Dutch island of St. Martin, and also Anguilla.

Leaders from across the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) who were not affected by Hurricane Irma, are prepared to offer assistance to the islands that felt the brunt of the powerful storm.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness says his administration has made contact with government officials in the impacted islands.

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“This is a period of assessment and planning to ascertain what Jamaica can do to assist our Caribbean brothers and sisters who have been significantly impacted by the most powerful hurricane to have emerged in the Atlantic Ocean,” he said in a release from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has advised Holness that inquiries have been made in relation to the welfare of Jamaicans on the affected islands.

Johnson Smith says her ministry will continue to make inquiries through the embassies and consulates, and the nation will be updated on the status of Jamaicans as the information becomes available.


On standby to assist

In a letter, the Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Ronald Jackson, briefed the Secretary General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, and Chair of CARICOM, Dr Keith Mitchell, indicating that their first responders are all on standby subject to requests from national offices in affected islands.

Hurricane Irma formed in the Atlantic during the week of August 25 and rapidly grew from a tropical disturbance to a major hurricane that now creates an unprecedented multi-state threat to potentially nine of the 18 CDEMA participating states.

These include Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Dominica, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Turks & Caicos Islands and the Virgin Islands.


Destruction across small island chain

So far, Irma has destroyed homes and flooded streets across a chain of small islands in the northern Caribbean, passing directly over Barbuda and leaving the island of 1,700 people incommunicado.

France has sent emergency food and water rations to the French islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, where Irma ripped off roofs and knocked out all electricity. The international airport in St. Martin, a popular tourist attract was severely damaged.

Dutch marines who flew to three Dutch islands hammered by Irma reported extensive damage but no deaths or injuries.


Bahamas undertaking largest ever evacuation

In the case of The Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said his government was evacuating six islands because authorities would not be able to help anyone caught in the “potentially catastrophic” wind, flooding and storm surge. People there would be flown to Nassau in what he called the largest storm evacuation in the country’s history.

According to CDEMA, the northern parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti could see 10 inches of rain, with as much as 20 inches in the southeast Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

By early Sunday, Irma is expected to hit Florida, where Governor Rick Scott said he planned to activate 7,000 National Guard members by Friday and warned that Irma is “bigger, faster and stronger” than Hurricane Andrew.

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