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Chief Bakes

BBC: Hurricane Irma

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Chief Bakes
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Hurricane Irma: Residents prepare for 'potentially catastrophic' storm

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Media captionThe view inside Hurricane Irma

Islands in the Caribbean have made last-minute preparations for Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, with officials warning of its "potentially catastrophic" effects.

The category five hurricane, the highest possible level, has sustained wind speeds reaching 295km/h (185mph).

It is starting to hit the Leeward Islands and will move on towards Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

In the US, Florida's Key West area has ordered a mandatory evacuation.

Visitors will be required to leave on Wednesday morning, with residents due to follow in the evening, and the international airport will halt all flights.

"We're emphatically telling people you must evacuate. You cannot afford to stay on an island with a category five hurricane coming at you," said Martin Senterfitt, the emergency operations centre director in Monroe County in Florida.

 
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Water is delivered to a shelter in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Closer to the storm, thousands of people have been evacuated from at-risk areas. Residents have flocked to shops for food, water, and emergency supplies, and in several locations goods were already in short supply.

Airports have closed on several islands, popular holiday destinations, and authorities have urged people to go to public shelters.

US President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, mobilizing federal disaster relief efforts for those areas.

In Puerto Rico, a 75-year-old man died during preparations for the storm, which has been described by Governor Ricardo Rossello as "something without precedent".

 
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Residents of San Juan rushed with their preparations

Storm surges, life-threatening winds and torrential rainfall are expected along the Leeward Islands, which include Antigua, Barbuda and Anguilla.

Alison Strand, originally from Staffordshire in the UK, is on the island of Anguilla. She said her family had spent the last several hours fortifying her home on the coast, which "will be the first house hit by the storm".

"Our house is 5m (15ft) above sea level and we're expecting 8m swells, so we're just crossing our fingers," she said. "We are expecting to lose our wooden roof."

Gary Randall, head of the Blue Waters Resort on Antigua's north coast, said: "I wasn't that nervous yesterday, but today I'm nervous."

Staff had boarded up windows, stripped trees of coconuts to stop them damaging property and secured anything that could become a hazard.

Predicted path of Hurricane Irma

 

Carolyne Coleby, in Montserrat, said: "Irma is about to hit us full force."

"I am a goat farmer and have to consider my livestock. Last night I moved 20 goats to a backhouse at a hostel I manage which is on slightly higher ground," she said.

"I am hoping the galvanised roof of the backhouse doesn't fly off. I can't go to the shelter because I can't leave my animals."

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Media captionBBC Weather's Stav Danaos has the latest on 'dangerous' Hurricane Irma

The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said Irma was moving at a speed of 24km/h (15mph), saying that the storm was "potentially catastrophic",

There are hurricane warnings for:

  • Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis
  • Saba, St Eustatius and Sint Maarten
  • Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy
  • The British Virgin Islands
  • The US Virgin Islands
  • Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra
  • Dominican Republic, for the northern region
  • Guadeloupe

Haiti, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the south-eastern Bahamas are on hurricane watch.

Parts of Texas and Louisiana are dealing with the damage done by Hurricane Harvey in late August. But it is not yet clear what impact Hurricane Irma might have on the US mainland.

The mainland has not been hit by two category four hurricanes in one season since the storms were first recorded in 1851.

A third tropical storm, Jose, has formed further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, and is expected to become a hurricane later on in the week.


Are you in the region? If you are a holidaymaker unable to get a flight home or a resident who has been preparing for Hurricane Irma share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

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Hurricane Irma wreaks 'major damage' in Caribbean

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Hurricane Irma has caused major flooding and damage to buildings on several Caribbean islands, France says.

The four "most solid" buildings on the island of Saint Martin have been destroyed, French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb announced.

There was still no news of casualties and more damage was possible, he said.

The category five hurricane, the highest possible level, has sustained wind speeds reaching 300km/h (185mph) as it sweeps through the Caribbean.

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Hurricane Irma: Puerto Rico braces for powerful storm

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Media captionGales and flooded cars in Saint Martin

Puerto Rico is bracing for Hurricane Irma after the powerful storm caused at least seven deaths and left widespread destruction in the Caribbean.

The small island of Barbuda is said to be "barely habitable" while there were warnings of a "cruel" impact on French territories St Martin and St Barts.

Emergency efforts are being hampered by difficult access and communication with the hardest-hit areas.

Meanwhile, two other storms have strengthened to become hurricanes.

Irma, a category five hurricane, the highest possible level, is currently moving from the northern Virgin Islands, the US National Hurricane centre said.

The most powerful storm in a decade had wind speeds of 295km/h (185mph) and was expected to pass just north of Puerto Rico, then near or just north of the coast of the Dominican Republic on Thursday.

In Puerto Rico, Irma was already causing heavy downpours and strong winds.

Many residents have rushed to shops for water, food and other supplies, despite warnings to remain indoors. Officials have said that power could be cut off for several days.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Flooded streets in St Martin

Hurricane Irma first hit the dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. At least one death was reported on Barbuda, where Prime Minister Gaston Browne said about 95% of the buildings had suffered some damage.

"The island is literally under water. In fact, I'm of the view that, as it stands now, Barbuda is barely habitable," he said after flying over the island, home to some 1,600 people.

However, Antigua, population 80,000, escaped major damage, with no loss of life, he said earlier.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Irma as seen from space at 11:30 GMT on Wednesday

Officials have confirmed at least six deaths and considerable damage in the French territories of St Martin and Saint Barthélemy - the French holiday destination popularly known as St Barts.

Power has been cut on both islands and emergency crews are still trying to reach the worst-hit areas. St Martin's airport, the third largest in the Caribbean, has been destroyed.

"I can already tell you that the impact will be hard and cruel, there will be casualties and the material damage on both islands will be considerable," President Emmanuel Macron said.

Significant damage was also reported in the Dutch section of St Martin, known as Sint-Maarten.

US President Donald Trump said he and his aides were monitoring Irma's progress. "But it looks like it could be something that will be not good. Believe me, not good," he told reporters at the White House.

It is still not yet clear what impact Hurricane Irma might have on the US mainland.

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Media captionAlison Strand told the BBC about the "dangerous conditions" in Anguilla

In Florida, officials started evacuations of tourists and residents of Florida Keys, a resort archipelago.

A state of emergency had been declared for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, mobilising federal disaster relief efforts.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the government was in touch with British overseas territories caught up in Irma, and was doing "everything we can to help those afflicted".


Islands in Irma's immediate path

Antigua and Barbuda

  • Population: 90,800
  • Key facts: one of the Caribbean's most prosperous nations, thanks to its tourism industry and offshore financial services
  • Hurricane report: Antigua reportedly escaped major damage, with no loss of life, but some 95% of structures on Barbuda were damaged or destroyed, the prime minister says, confirming at least one death

St Martin

  • Population: 75,000
  • Key facts: tourist destination celebrated for its beaches; divided between France, which calls its section Saint Martin, and the Netherlands, which calls its part Sint-Maarten
  • Hurricane report: six people reported killed in St Martin, according to Guadeloupe prefect Eric Maire. There has been serious damage to buildings, flooding, power cuts

St Barts (Saint Barthélemy)

  • Population: 9,200
  • Key facts: luxury tourist destination
  • Hurricane report: serious damage to buildings, flooding, power cuts

Turks and Caicos

  • Population: 31,500
  • Key facts: enjoys one of the more dynamic economies in the region thanks to upmarket tourism, offshore finance and fishing
  • Hurricane report: the low-lying region is at risk of a storm surge with destructive waves up to 6m (20ft) higher than usual possible

British Virgin Islands

  • Population: 20,600
  • Key facts: more than 40 islands and islets
  • Hurricane report: Irma is passing over the northern islands

Puerto Rico

  • Population: 3.7 million
  • Key facts: a tourist destination but plagued by debt, poverty and high unemployment
  • Hurricane report: Irma expected to pass close by

Dominican Republic

  • Population: 10.2 million
  • Key facts: major tourist destination, shares island of Hispaniola with Haiti
  • Hurricane report: Irma expected to pass close by

Another storm, Jose, further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, swelled to category one hurricane strength and could be near major hurricane strength on Friday, according to the US National Hurricane centre.

And storm Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, was also upgraded to hurricane status, and a warning was in effect for the coast of the Mexican state of Veracruz.

Seeing multiple storms developing in the same area of the Atlantic in close succession is not uncommon.

Rarer though is the strength of the hurricanes, with Harvey making landfall in the US as a category four.

There have never been two category four storms making landfall on the US mainland during the same season, since records began.


Are you in the region? Are you a holidaymaker unable to get a flight home or a resident who has been preparing for Hurricane Irma? If it is safe for you to do so, share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

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Reasonable Man

I recently booked a trip for December to Puerto Rico, St Kitts, Antigua, Aruba, St Thomas. Now having a tug of conscience feeling for those who have lost so much but still wanting my holiday.

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Hurricane Irma: Fears grow for Britons in Caribbean

  • 7 September 2017
  • From the section UK
Sint MaartenImage copyright AFP
Image caption Significant damage has been reported in the Dutch section of St Martin, known as Sint-Maarten

The UK is acting swiftly in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean amid fears for Britons there, Boris Johnson says.

The foreign secretary said he had spoken to the chief minister of British overseas territory Anguilla and had staff and a naval vessel ready to help.

But the UK has been criticised by locals for its "inadequate" response.

A number of Britons in the region, including a pregnant woman, have not been heard from since Wednesday night.

Hurricane Irma has caused widespread destruction across the Caribbean, reducing buildings to rubble and leaving at least seven people dead.

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Media caption"It was like a horror movie" - Residents of Barbuda describe the destruction wrought by Hurricane Irma

Deadly Hurricane Irma flattens islands

The small island of Barbuda is said to be "barely habitable", while officials warn that the French territory of St Martin is almost destroyed.

The area hit by the huge storm includes a number British overseas territories, among them Anguilla which has been left devastated, and the British Virgin Islands, which the hurricane passed over.

The British territory of Turks and Caicos, with a population of 31,500, is still at risk.

'Nuclear bomb devastation'

Britain's 14 overseas territories are under UK sovereignty and jurisdiction - most are self-governing but they rely on the UK for defence, security and safety - including protection from natural disasters.

According to Josephine Gumbs-Conner, a barrister from Anguilla, the UK's preparations for and response to the storm have been "sorely lacking".

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the British government should have "done what the French did in St Martin - who made sure that they had military on the ground so that the response given is timely".

She said the island's essential services including hospitals and police stations, were now in a "limping position", after the hurricane "left us in absolute pieces".

Ms Gumbs-Conner said: "When you look at our island at the moment, you would think that it just suffered nuclear bomb devastation."

Officials have confirmed at least eight deaths and considerable damage in the French territories of St-Martin and Saint Barthélemy, popularly known as St Barts.

Significant damage was also reported in the Dutch section of St Martin, known as Sint-Maarten.

The Dutch navy has sent two ships from nearby Aruba and Curacao to assist locals, according to media in the Netherlands.

Lost contact

The UK Foreign Office warned Britons to evacuate the area as the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade approached, but many expats and tourists were left stranded as airlines were forced to ground or divert flights.

Fears are growing for pregnant British mother Afiya Frank, 27, and her sister Asha Frank, 29, who were preparing for the storm in Barbuda but have not been heard from since Wednesday night.

Their aunt, Ruth Bolton, told The Mirror: "They had boarded up the house that my sister had just finished building with wood and stocked up on water etc.

"They are always well prepared for storms in Barbuda. It's a brick house and hopefully stood some of the storm.

"We had contact till about 10.30pm our time last night via What's App and then that was it. Nothing since and no way to find out how they are.

"I just want to hug my nieces and speak to them."

There has also been no word from holidaymaker Alex Woolfall, from London, who was tweeting on Wednesday from his hotel on the island of Saint Martin, where he was taking cover in a stairwell after being evacuated from his room.

He wrote: "My God this noise! It's like standing behind a jet engine!! Constant booms & bangs. At least concrete stairwell not moving."

He added: "May be my last tweet as power out and noise now apocalyptic. This is like a movie I never want to see."

On Wednesday Sir Richard Branson, who refused to leave his private retreat in the British Virgin Islands, said he was "retreating to a concrete wine cellar" with his staff as the hurricane approached.

"Knowing our wonderful team as I do, I suspect there will be little wine left in the cellar when we all emerge," he wrote in his blog.

Flight warnings

British Airways said it evacuated 326 passengers from Antigua on Tuesday and had managed to rebook many others across the Caribbean islands onto flights out with alternative airlines.

It said: "We are closely monitoring developments in the region and are in regular contact with holidaymakers there to ensure they are safe and being well looked after by their hotel management."

Virgin Atlantic has cancelled Thursday's flight to Antigua from London Gatwick but said the return flight from Antigua back to the UK would still operate.

A spokesman added: "We expect our Orlando operations to be impacted this weekend, so we strongly advise customers currently in Florida to get in touch to discuss options to travel home early."

Officials in the US have started evacuations of tourists and residents from Florida Keys as the hurricane approaches.

Flights to and from several airports in Florida were being suspended, while Orlando's international airport said commercial flights would stop from 17:00 local time on Saturday.

A state of emergency had been declared for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, mobilising federal disaster relief efforts.

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Cathedral Bobby

It is shattering for the warm and welcoming people of the Caribbean. My thoughts are with them.

As Florida might be in line for a tough time I think Trump better find some strong fixer for the shredded wheat he wears on his head.

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Hurricane Irma: 'UK doing all it can to help British territories victims'

  • 7 September 2017
  • From the section UK
Boats crammed against the shore in Paraquita Bay in the British Virgin IslandsImage copyright Reuters
Image caption The UK territory of the British Virgin Islands is among the areas affected

The UK government is doing all it can to help people in the British territories affected by Hurricane Irma, the defence secretary has said.

It comes after the government's response to the disaster was criticised as "inadequate".

Sir Michael Fallon said the UK was sending a task group, including hundreds of military personnel, to help with the relief effort.

He said there had been reports of people being hurt by "flying debris".

British Navy ship, the RFA Mounts Bay, has arrived in the region and a second ship, HMS Ocean, is also being sent - but is not expected to arrive for another two weeks.

'Nuclear bomb devastation'

Hurricane Irma has caused widespread destruction across the Caribbean, reducing buildings to rubble and leaving at least nine people dead.

The UK's Foreign Office says two British territories in the Caribbean have suffered "severe" damage from the hurricane.

Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan said Anguilla received the hurricane's "full blast" while the British Virgin Islands would need "extensive humanitarian assistance".

At least one death has been reported on Anguilla, according to local officials.

A third British territory, Montserrat, was "swiped" but the damage is not as bad as first thought, Sir Alan said.

The low-lying British territory of Turks and Caicos is still in the storm's path and preparing to be hit.

Evacuations have begun, with tropical-force rains expected to begin at around 14:00 local time, or 19:00 BST.

The UK government has pledged £12m of disaster relief money.

Speaking after a meeting of the government's Cobra committee, Sir Michael said the UK's taskforce would help with relief efforts, such as restoring clean water, providing medical assistance and reconstruction work.

But Josephine Gumbs-Conner, a barrister from Anguilla, claimed the UK's preparations for and response to the storm have been "sorely lacking".

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the UK government should have "done what the French did in St Martin - who made sure that they had military on the ground so that the response given is timely".

She said the island's essential services including hospitals and police stations, were now in a "limping position", after the hurricane caused "nuclear bomb devastation".


Are you in the region? Are you a holidaymaker unable to get a flight home or a resident who has been preparing for Hurricane Irma? If it is safe for you to do so, share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

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Hurricane Irma bears down on Turks and Caicos islands

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionNasa images on Thursday show the eye of Irma over the Dominican Republic and Haiti

The low-lying Turks and Caicos islands are preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma, which has left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean.

The British overseas territory is said to be at risk of a storm surge, with the possibility of destructive waves up to 6m (20ft) higher than usual.

Irma is a category five hurricane, the highest possible level.

Islands in its path have seen winds of about 180mph (285km/h). At least nine people have died.

The small island of Barbuda is said to be "barely habitable". Officials warn that St Martin is almost destroyed, and the death toll is likely to rise.

Irma is currently north of the Dominican Republic, heading towards the Turks and Caicos and is expected to hit the chain on Thursday evening.

It is expected to reach Cuba next before hitting the US state of Florida at the weekend, with the head of the US emergency agency predicting a "truly devastating" impact.

An estimated 1.2 million people have been affected by Irma, a number that could rise sharply to 26 million, the Red Cross says.

"Our worst fears have played out in Barbuda and elsewhere," Walter Cotte, Americas director for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a statement.

There are concerns that disease could spread rapidly in areas where drinking water and sanitation services have broken down.

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Media captionBefore and after: Stills and footage show St Martin then and now

Preparations for the arrival of Irma are well under way on the Turks and Caicos, which has a population of about 35,000. Its highest point is only 50m (163ft).

Governor John Freeman said: "We have decided to evacuate certain islands which were particularly low-lying and at threat. We have started to fill our shelters because a number of people who live in very low-lying areas are very vulnerable.

"We've also engaged in terms of getting people off the island who are here, North American tourists and others. "

Virginia Clerveaux, director of the Turks and Caicos Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies, told the BBC that even inland areas could be inundated by the storm surge.

"We are now trying to remind them [the people of the islands] that this is a category five, and in the history of the Turks and Caicos islands this is the largest storm we have ever been impacted or threatened by.

"So there is a need to ensure that we have maximum preparations in place... We have been saying to persons to ensure that they are prepared, ensure they can shelter safely, they have sufficient food and drinking water for two to three days."

Britain, France, and the Netherlands and Britain have sent ships, rescue teams and emergency supplies to their territories that have been hit by Hurricane Irma.

Aid efforts are being hampered by damage to local airports and harbours.

What are the worst-hit areas?

Hurricane Irma first struck the dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. At least one death, of a child, was reported on Barbuda, where Prime Minister Gaston Browne said about 95% of the buildings had suffered some damage.

"It's absolute devastation," he said after flying over the island, home to some 1,600 people. "The island is literally under water. In fact, I'm of the view that, as it stands now, Barbuda is barely habitable."

He told the BBC that 50% of the Barbuda population were now homeless and that it would cost $100m (£80m) to rebuild the island.

However, Antigua, with a population of 80,000, escaped major damage, with no loss of life.

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe island of Barbuda is "barely habitable", says PM Gaston Browne

St Martin, an island that comprises the French territory of Saint-Martin and the Dutch section Sint-Maarten, suffered terrible damage.

French officials have confirmed at least four deaths in Saint-Martin, down from an earlier reported death toll of eight. More than 50 people were injured. Dutch authorities reported one death and many injuries.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 60% of homes had been made uninhabitable.

Sint-Maarten's airport, the third largest in the Caribbean, has been seriously damaged.

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionAerial footage from the Dutch ministry of defence revealed the extent of the devastation in Sint-Maarten

At least three people had died in Puerto Rico, the governor's office said.

The US territory's capital, San Juan, saw waves of up to 30ft. More than 6,000 residents are in shelters, and many more are without power.

Where else has been hit?

British overseas territories Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands were also caught in the extreme weather.

At least one death has been reported on Anguilla, a local official confirmed.

One Anguilla resident told the BBC the island looked as if it had been struck by a nuclear bomb, with roofs torn off many of the main buildings, including the hospital.

What the US can expect

Irma is expected to hit Florida as a category four hurricane on Sunday, bringing storm surges and flooding.

"If you look at the size of this storm, it's huge," Florida Governor Rick Scott said on Thursday. "It's wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts on both coasts - coast to coast."

US President Donald Trump said: "I can say this: Florida is as well prepared as you can be for something like this. Now it's just a question of what happens.

"We have tremendous talent and really tremendously brave people to be there and hopefully it's going to work out all right.

"We are with the people of Florida."

Evacuations of tourists and residents of the Florida Keys, a resort archipelago, have begun.

Flights to and from airports in Florida are being suspended. Orlando's international airport said commercial flights would stop from 17:00 local time on Saturday.


Islands still at risk from Irma

Dominican Republic

  • Population: 10.2 million
  • Key facts: major tourist destination, shares island of Hispaniola with Haiti
  • Hurricane prediction: Irma expected to pass close by

Haiti

  • Population: 10.2 million
  • Key facts: on the same island as the Dominican Republic; devastated by an earthquake in 2010
  • Hurricane prediction: not directly in the hurricane's path, but remains on alert

Turks and Caicos

  • Population: 31,500
  • Key facts: enjoys one of the more dynamic economies in the region thanks to upmarket tourism, offshore finance and fishing
  • Hurricane prediction: the low-lying region is at risk of a storm surge with destructive waves up to 6m (20ft) higher than usual possible

Cuba

  • Population: 11 million
  • Key facts: one of the world's last planned economies; a producer of sugar, tobacco and coffee, with a big tourism industry
  • Hurricane prediction: Tropical storm conditions expected to begin on Thursday night (local time)

Bahamas

  • Population: 350,000
  • Key facts: an archipelago of more than 700 islands and islets, which attracts millions of tourists per year
  • Hurricane prediction: warnings for north-west, south-east and centre; some areas have risk of storm surge of up to 6m (20ft)

Are there more hurricanes to come?

Another storm, Jose, further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, has swelled to category two hurricane strength and could be near major hurricane strength on Friday, according to the US National Hurricane centre.

Forecasters say Jose is expected to pass close to the Leeward islands, a collective name for islands from Dominica to Puerto Rico. Its exact path is as yet unclear but winds are not expected to be as strong. However, it may hit areas already devastated by Irma.

Storm Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, was also upgraded to hurricane status, and a warning was in effect for the coast of the Mexican state of Veracruz.


Are you in the region? Are you a holidaymaker unable to get a flight home or a resident who has been preparing for Hurricane Irma? If it is safe for you to do so, share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

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Hurricane Irma: UK territory declares state of emergency

  • 8 September 2017
  • From the section UK
Boats crammed against the shore in Paraquita Bay in the British Virgin IslandsImage copyright Reuters
Image caption The UK territory of the British Virgin Islands is among the areas affected

A state of emergency has been declared in a British Overseas Territory hit by Hurricane Irma.

British Virgin Islands governor Gus Jaspert said there were reports of casualties and fatalities, and help had been requested from the UK.

He said radio and other communication channels were extremely limited.

The UK government has increased the relief fund for British overseas territories devastated by Hurricane Irma to £32m.

The announcement - increasing the fund from £12m - was made by Prime Minister Theresa May as she said the government had responded "swiftly" to the disaster.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the government was doing all it could to help people affected.

But Baroness Amos said it was felt the UK "did not respond" quickly enough.

In an audio message, Mr Jaspert said: " I come to you with a heavy heart after experiencing and observing the extent of devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.

"After consultation with the premier, I have declared a state of emergency for the territory.

"Radio and other communication channels are extremely limited. And so I am reaching out with this message via any channel possible.

"Please do pass it on by any means accessible to you."

The low-lying British territory of Turks and Caicos is still in the storm's path and evacuations have started.

Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan said British overseas territory Anguilla received the hurricane's "full blast" while the British Virgin Islands would need "extensive humanitarian assistance".

At least one death has been reported on Anguilla, according to local officials.

British territory Montserrat was "swiped" but the damage was not as bad as first thought, Sir Alan said.

Hurricane Irma has caused widespread destruction across the Caribbean, reducing buildings to rubble and leaving at least 10 people dead.

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Hurricane Irma: UK steps up relief effort

  • 8 September 2017
  • From the section UK
p05ffxlv.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption"Heartbroken": Hear the British Virgin Islands governor declare a state of emergency after Hurricane Irma

The UK is stepping up its relief effort in response to Hurricane Irma, with the first of three RAF aid flights on its way to the Caribbean.

The military transport plane is carrying about 50 troops as well as aid, including shelter kits.

A Royal Navy landing ship is also due to arrive later in the British Virgin Islands, where a state of emergency has been declared.

The UK government has been accused of responding too slowly to the hurricane.

'Terrifying'

The British Virgin Islands' governor, Gus Jaspert, has asked the UK for help, amid reports of widespread devastation, with fatalities reported.

One resident said the hurricane, which hit on Wednesday, was "terrifying" and had left "total devastation".

The UK has almost tripled the relief fund for British overseas territories to £32m amid criticism of its response.

Irma passed over the British overseas territories of Anguilla, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) on Wednesday night - and went on to batter another, the Turks and Caicos islands further north on Thursday evening.

Image copyright MOD
Image caption UK armed forces assessing the damage in Anguilla on Thursday

The BVI is a collection of 40 islands and islets with a population of more than 30,000 - Tortola is one of the largest, home to more than three quarters of the population.

Prime Minister Theresa May is due to chair a meeting of the government's emergency response Cobra committee later, where she will get the latest information on the hurricane.

Mr Jaspert has warned that another storm, Hurricane Jose, could reach the BVI, anticipating it could be category three when it arrives at the weekend.

Briton Emily Killhoury, who lives on Tortola with her husband Michael and their two children, aged nine and 10, told the BBC her family bunkered down in a closet when the storm hit.

"Our downstairs doors suddenly blew out, which was terrifying. We just stayed hiding," she said.

"We eventually emerged at about 7pm to see total devastation. Everybody is shocked, but trying to be practical."

Image copyright Emily Killhoury
Image caption Emily Killhoury's house was a strong concrete structure, other properties were worse hit

Sir Richard Branson, who was at his private retreat of Necker Island in the BVI, said his island and the whole area had been "completely and utterly devastated".

In a blog, Sir Richard said his team were safe and well after taking shelter in his concrete wine cellar, but added: "I've never seen anything like this hurricane.

"We are still assessing the damage, but whole houses and trees have disappeared."

British overseas territories are self-governing but rely on the UK for protection from natural disasters.

Former UN head of humanitarian relief Baroness Amos said on Thursday that it was felt the UK "did not respond" quickly enough to the disaster.

But Prime Minister Theresa May insisted that the government had responded "swiftly".

What has happened in British territories?

  • Anguilla: Hit by the full blast of the hurricane on Wednesday. At least one death reported.
  • British Virgin Islands: Reports of casualties and fatalities and extensive damage. Expected to require extensive humanitarian assistance. In a message the people of the BVI, governor Gus Jaspert said: "I come to you with a heavy heart after experiencing and observing the extent of devastation caused by Hurricane Irma." Communications are difficult.
  • Montserrat: "Swiped" by Irma but suffered less serious damage.
  • Turks and Caicos: Battered by the hurricane on Thursday night, with roofs ripped off, streets flooded, utility poles snapped and a widespread black-out on the main island of Grand Turk.

What is the UK doing?

Image copyright PA
Image caption The first military relief flight was loaded with supplies at RAF Brize Norton on Friday

Humanitarian workers with 200 shelter kits and the Royal Navy ship, RFA Mounts Bay, were sent to the area before the hurricane struck.

The military vessel arrived in Anguilla on Thursday, with personnel there clearing roads and helping to restore power.

HMS Ocean is also being sent from the Mediterranean but is not expected to arrive for another two weeks.

The first British military flight to join the relief effort has left RAF Brize Norton, carrying about 50 troops - including engineers, marines and medics, as well as rations and water. Other transport aircraft are expected to follow with helicopters on board.

At the scene: 'Foolish to rush in'

Image copyright PA

By Duncan Kennedy, BBC South of England correspondent at RAF Brize Norton

Loading aid is a complicated operation and the first of the RAF flights left Brize Norton at lunchtime.

It has dozens of Royal Marines onboard, together with water supplies and shelter equipment.

The RAF base commander here has denied the British have been slow to get going. He says it would be foolish to rush into the region before knowing exactly what is needed.

There will be more flights from Brize later, with a total of about 300 military personnel heading to the Caribbean.

What is the advice for travellers?

Thousands of British tourists are believed to be holidaying in the Caribbean, the travel association Abta said.

Britons in the region have been urged to follow evacuation orders, while states of emergency have been declared in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida, amid fears Miami could be struck directly by the hurricane.

Holiday firms are monitoring the situation and some have cancelled flights or offered to amend bookings for those due to travel to affected areas in the coming days.

The cruise company Carnival has cancelled four cruises bound for the Caribbean that were due to depart over the next few days - and warned that others may be cut short.

The Foreign Office urges people planning to go to the areas to follow the advice from the local authorities, including any evacuation orders, and check its official travel guidance before travelling.

It has set up a hotline for people affected by the disaster and for people whose loved ones may be affected on 020 7008 0000.


Do you have family members living in one of the British Overseas Territories affected by the hurricane? Have you been in contact with them? Share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Or use the form below:

Your contact details

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Hurricane Irma will be 'devastating' to US - Fema head

A handout photo from the Dutch Department of Defense shows damaged caused by Hurricane Iram on St. Martin.Image copyright EPA
Image caption Officials say six out of 10 homes in St Martin were so badly damaged that they were uninhabitable.

Hurricane Irma will "devastate" either Florida or neighbouring states, the head of the US federal emergency agency has said.

Brock Long said parts of Florida would be without power for days, and more than 100,000 people may need shelter.

Meanwhile there are reports of serious looting on the hurricane-hit Caribbean island of St Martin.

Hurricane Irma has left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean, affecting an estimated 1.2m people.

It has been downgraded to a category four storm, but officials warn that it remains "extremely dangerous".

The US National Weather Service says that Irma was expected to bring wind speeds of around 165mph (270km/h) over the weekend.

Some 500,000 people were told to leave south Florida with Irma due on Sunday.

"Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States in either Florida or some of the southeastern states," Mr Long said.

"The entire southeastern United States better wake up and pay attention," he added.

The death toll rose continued to rise on Friday in the Caribbean, where at least 14 people were killed in the wake of the deadly storm.

In St Martin, an island resort divided between France and the Netherlands, at least four people had died and 50 others were injured.

French officials there said six out of 10 homes were so badly damaged that they were uninhabitable.

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPeople in Florida prepare for Hurricane Irma

Annick Girardin, minister for France's overseas territories, described "scenes of pillaging" on the island, urging police to restore order and provide emergency care for victims.

The US Consulate General in Curacao said it believes an estimated 6,000 Americans are stranded on St Martin.

French, British and Dutch military authorities have deployed aid - including warships and planes equipped with food, water and troops - to the popular tourist chain of Caribbean islands.

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Hurricane Irma: UK response found wanting, MPs say

  • 8 September 2017
  • From the section UK
p05fgv6g.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption"The wind was like nothing I've ever known in my life"

Britain's response to Hurricane Irma has been "found wanting", the heads of two parliamentary committees have said.

Many of those affected in the UK's overseas territories in the Caribbean remain in "grave need", the chairmen of the foreign affairs and international development committees said.

The UK has stepped up its relief effort, with the first of three RAF aid flights on their way to the area.

PM Theresa May has insisted the UK responded "swiftly".

Irma has caused huge damage in the British overseas territories of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Turks and Caicos islands further north, and also "swiped" another, Montserrat, but caused less serious damage.

The storm is now expected to hit Florida or neighbouring states in the US over the weekend.

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat and Labour's Stephen Twigg have written to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Development Secretary Priti Patel to criticise the "lack of forward thinking".

Mr Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, and international development committee head Mr Twigg said: "Experts and many in the area have been critical of the overall level of relief currently on offer as well as the apparent lack of forward-thinking once the storm's route to Florida became more than just a possibility."

They did welcome the increase in relief funding for the territories to £32m.

Image copyright MOD
Image caption UK armed forces assessing the damage in Anguilla on Thursday

The BVI has declared a state of emergency and governor Gus Jaspert asked the UK for help amid reports of widespread devastation, with casualties and fatalities reported.

Mr Jaspert has warned that another storm, Hurricane Jose could reach the islands at the weekend.

Sharon Flax-Brutus, director of tourism for the islands, said the damage was difficult to assess because communications were down, but that "many homes are without roofs, or have been diminished to merely foundations".

Image copyright AFP PHOTO / HUBERT HACISKI
Image caption A state of emergency has been declared in the BVI which was hit by Hurricane Irma

Simon Cross, who moved to the BVI two years ago, said the first warning he had of the hurricane hitting his building was when a skylight was blown off the roof.

"The wind was scary enough for us to all end up huddling in an adjoining bathroom which had a small window protected by metal shutters.

"The wind was like nothing I've ever known in my life. It was crazy."

Briton Emily Killhoury, who lives on Tortola in the BVI with her husband Michael and their two children, aged nine and 10, told the BBC her family bunkered down in a cupboard when the storm hit.

"Our downstairs doors suddenly blew out, which was terrifying. We just stayed hiding," she said.

"We eventually emerged at about 7pm to see total devastation. Everybody is shocked, but trying to be practical."

Image copyright Emily Killhoury
Image caption Emily Killhoury's house was a strong concrete structure, other properties were worse hit

Prime Minister Theresa May has chaired a meeting of the government's emergency response Cobra committee.

She said UK troops deployed on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ship Mounts Bay have been working in Anguilla and have "made the airfield serviceable, restored power to the hospital and rebuilt emergency shelters".

They have also begun assisting the governor of the BVI and working to ensure the airfield is accessible for military aircraft to fly in with emergency supplies, she added.

"Every effort is being made to ensure that as much as possible can be done in advance of Hurricane Jose, which is the next hurricane reaching that area."

The prime minister said the UK was also "committed" to providing support to ensure reconstruction work is done in the region in the long-term.

British overseas territories are self-governing but rely on the UK for protection from natural disasters.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the impact of Hurricane Irma on the Caribbean was "entirely predictable" and the British government "should have acted much faster".

What has happened in British territories?

  • Anguilla: Hit by the full blast of the hurricane on Wednesday. At least one death reported.
  • British Virgin Islands: Reports of casualties and fatalities and extensive damage. Expected to require extensive humanitarian assistance. In a message the people of the BVI, governor Gus Jaspert said: "I come to you with a heavy heart after experiencing and observing the extent of devastation caused by Hurricane Irma." Communications are difficult.
  • Montserrat: "Swiped" by Irma but suffered less serious damage.
  • Turks and Caicos: Battered by the hurricane on Thursday night, with roofs ripped off, streets flooded, utility poles snapped and a widespread black-out on the main island of Grand Turk.

What is the UK doing?

Image copyright MOD
Image caption A British Royal Logistics Corps Mexflote arrives in Anguilla to help with the relief effort

Humanitarian workers with 200 shelter kits and the British ship, RFA Mounts Bay, were sent to the area before the hurricane struck.

The MoD-owned vessel arrived in Anguilla on Thursday and delivered six tonnes of emergency aid, with personnel there clearing roads and helping to restore power.

The ship has since arrived in the BVI - 90 miles to the west - to help with disaster relief efforts there.

Warship HMS Ocean is also being sent from the Mediterranean but is not expected to arrive for another two weeks.

The first British military flight to join the relief effort has left RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire carrying about 50 personnel - including engineers, marines and medics, as well as rations and water.

Other transport aircraft are expected to follow with helicopters on board.

What is the advice for travellers?

Thousands of British tourists are believed to be holidaying in the Caribbean, the travel association Abta said.

Britons in the region have been urged to follow evacuation orders, while states of emergency have been declared in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida, amid fears Miami could be struck directly by the hurricane.

Holiday firms are monitoring the situation and some have cancelled flights or offered to amend bookings for those due to travel to affected areas in the coming days.

The cruise company Carnival has cancelled four cruises bound for the Caribbean that were due to depart over the next few days - and warned that others may be cut short.

The Foreign Office urges people planning to go to the areas to follow the advice from the local authorities, including any evacuation orders, and check its official travel guidance before travelling.

It has set up a hotline for people affected by the disaster and for people whose loved ones may be affected on 020 7008 0000.


Do you have family members living in one of the British Overseas Territories affected by the hurricane? Have you been in contact with them? Share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Or use the form below:

Your contact details

If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.

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Hurricane Irma: Cuba hit with strong winds and heavy rain

Palm trees sway in strong winds in Caibarien, Cuba. Photo: 8 September 2017Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hurricane Irma bringing powerful winds to Cuba

Hurricane Irma is lashing Cuba with strong winds and heavy rain after devastating several Caribbean islands.

The category five storm made landfall on the Camaguey Archipelago, off the north-eastern coast.

But the Bahamas have largely been spared after Irma changed track.

In Florida, 5.6 million people, or 25% of the US state's population, have been told to leave as the storm approaches. At least 20 people are known to have died so far across the Caribbean.

Irma, which strengthened in the last few hours, hit the Camaguey Archipelago late on Friday, threatening nearby coastal towns and villages.

This is the first time a category five hurricane has hit Cuba in decades.

At 03:00 GMT on Saturday, Irma had maximum sustained winds of 257km/h (160mph), the National Hurricane centre in the US said.

The eye of the storm was about 190km (120 miles) east-southeast of the Cuban fishing town of Caibarien.

A hurricane warning is currently in effect in the provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara and Matanzas.

Some communities have lost power, and communication is becoming increasingly difficult with towns in more remote areas, the BBC's Will Grant in Havana reports.

Residents are hoping the storm will just glance the island before heading across the Florida Straits to Miami.

Even that, however, could bring dangerous flash flooding and storm surges in many populated areas, our Havana correspondent says.

Earlier, people tried to secure their roofs and move belongings from low-lying coastal areas to higher ground.

"There are really strong gusts of wind. It is pouring off and on, and the lights are out," Anaida Gonzalez, a retired nurse in the Camaguey province, told Reuters.

About 50,000 tourists are fleeing or have fled Cuba, with resorts on the north coast now empty, the news agency reports.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Even dolphins, who entertain tourists in water centres, have been moved to safety
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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWhy Hurricane could be worse for Florida than Andrew 25 years ago

Irma is expected to hit Florida on Sunday.

Brock Long, the head of the US federal emergency agency, warned that Irma would "devastate" either Florida or neighbouring states.

He said that parts of Florida would be without power for days.

"The entire south-eastern United States better wake up and pay attention," he added.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said all Floridians should be prepared for possible evacuation, and issued a stark warning to those in threatened areas.

"We are running out of time. If you are in an evacuation zone, you need to go now," he told reporters.

"Remember, we can rebuild your home, we can't rebuild your life."

p05fjbwv.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionRose Brooks, who survived the storm that decimated Barbuda, describes the chaos

The death toll continued to rise on Friday in the Caribbean.

France's Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said nine people were dead and seven missing in the French territory on St Martin, an island shared with the Netherlands, and St Barthélemy.

Another death - the second - has been confirmed in the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten.

French officials said six out of 10 homes on Saint-Martin were so badly damaged that they were uninhabitable.

US President Donald Trump spoke on Friday to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to extend his condolences and offer support, the White House said.

French, British and Dutch military authorities have deployed aid - including warships and planes equipped with food, water and troops - to their territories.

Reporting from another badly damaged island, Barbuda, the BBC's Laura Bicker says the destruction there is worse than feared.

Which other areas have already been hit?

p05fc80y.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe island of Barbuda is "barely habitable", says PM Gaston Browne
  • Turks and Caicos Islands: widespread damage, although extent unclear
  • Barbuda: the small island is said to be "barely habitable", with 95% of the buildings damaged. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne estimates reconstruction will cost $100m (£80m). One death has been confirmed
  • Anguilla: extensive damage with one person confirmed dead
  • Puerto Rico: more than 6,000 residents of the US territory are in shelters and many more without power. At least three people have died
  • British Virgin Islands: widespread damage reported
  • US Virgin Islands: damage to infrastructure was said to be widespread, with four deaths confirmed
  • Haiti and the Dominican Republic: Both battered by the storm, but neither had as much damage as initially feared
Image copyright Ministry of Defence
Image caption British troops have arrived in Anguilla to take part in the disaster relief operation

Are there more hurricanes to come?

Another storm, Jose, further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, is now a category four hurricane, with winds of up to 240km/h (150mph).

It is following a similar path to Irma and already hampering relief efforts in some of the worst affected areas.

Residents of Barbuda, where 95% of buildings have been destroyed by Irma, have now left the island as Jose approaches.

Hurricane Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, a category one storm with winds of up to 75mph, made landfall on the Mexican Gulf coast in the state of Veracruz late on Friday.

The storm is expected to weaken rapidly in the coming hours.


Are you in the region? Are you a holidaymaker unable to get a flight home or a resident who has been preparing for Hurricane Irma? If it is safe for you to do so, share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Or use the form below:

Your contact details

If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.

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Hurricane Irma: UK Royal Marines bring aid to victims

  • 9 September 2017
  • From the section UK
p05fgv6g.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption"The wind was like nothing I've ever known in my life"

Two hundred Royal Marines have arrived in the Caribbean to bring aid to UK overseas territories following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma.

Operation Ruman is tasked with distributing medical supplies and helping the territories recover following the category five storm.

The taskforce is currently in Barbados, which is the UK's distribution hub.

On Friday Britain's response to the storm was "found wanting" by the heads of two parliamentary committees.

Many of those affected in the UK's overseas territories in the Caribbean are still in "grave need", Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat and Labour MP Stephen Twigg said.

The UK has stepped up its relief effort, with the marines being accompanied by other service personnel, including engineers and disaster relief specialists.

Travelling on Royal Air Force C-17, Voyager and A400M aircraft, the military transported emergency shelter kits, rations and clean water to the region.

The UK military ship RFA Mounts Bay continues to provide support to the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

HMS Ocean has also been diverted from the Mediterranean and is now taking aid to the Caribbean in order to begin the task of rebuilding.

Image copyright AFP PHOTO / HUBERT HACISKI
Image caption A state of emergency has been declared in the BVI which was hit by Hurricane Irma

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the UK's response had been "very good".

Responding to the criticism, he highlighted the fact that RFA Mounts Bay had been in the region, adding "you had to deal with hurricane winds blowing through".

"So it was difficult to deliver helicopters and deliver planes in the way the islanders would've wanted."

Aid has also been supplied from the Department for International Development's disaster response centre at Kemble Airfield in Gloucestershire. This includes 10,000 aid buckets and 5,000 solar lanterns.

Irma has caused huge damage in the British overseas territories of Anguilla, the BVI and the Turks and Caicos islands further north.

British overseas territories are self-governing but rely on the UK for protection from natural disasters.

The storm has now reached Cuba and is expected to hit Florida and neighbouring states in the US over the weekend.

Echoing other criticism, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Friday that the impact of Hurricane Irma on the Caribbean was "entirely predictable" and the government "should have acted much faster".

Image copyright MOD
Image caption UK armed forces assessing the damage in Anguilla on Thursday

The BVI has declared a state of emergency and the territory's governor Gus Jaspert has asked London for help amid reports of widespread devastation, with casualties and fatalities reported.

Mr Jaspert has warned another storm, Hurricane Jose, could reach the islands at the weekend

Sharon Flax-Brutus, director of tourism for the islands, said the damage was difficult to assess because communications were down, but that "many homes are without roofs, or have been diminished to merely foundations".

Briton Emily Killhoury, who lives on Tortola in the BVI with her husband Michael and their two children, aged nine and 10, told the BBC her family bunkered down in a cupboard when the storm hit.

"Our downstairs doors suddenly blew out, which was terrifying. We just stayed hiding," she said.

"We eventually emerged at about 7pm to see total devastation. Everybody is shocked, but trying to be practical."

Image copyright Emily Killhoury
Image caption Emily Killhoury's house was a strong concrete structure, other properties were worse hit

What has happened in British territories?

  • Anguilla: Hit by the full blast of the hurricane on Wednesday. At least one death reported.
  • British Virgin Islands: Reports of casualties and fatalities and extensive damage. Expected to require extensive humanitarian assistance. In a message the people of the BVI, governor Gus Jaspert said: "I come to you with a heavy heart after experiencing and observing the extent of devastation caused by Hurricane Irma." Communications are difficult.
  • Montserrat: "Swiped" by Irma but suffered less serious damage.
  • Turks and Caicos: Battered by the hurricane on Thursday night, with roofs ripped off, streets flooded, utility poles snapped and a widespread black-out on the main island of Grand Turk.
Image copyright MOD
Image caption A British Royal Logistics Corps Mexflote arrives in Anguilla to help with the relief effort

What is the advice for travellers?

Thousands of British tourists are believed to be holidaying in the Caribbean, the travel association Abta said.

Britons in the region have been urged to follow evacuation orders, while states of emergency have been declared in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida, amid fears Miami could be struck directly by the hurricane.

Holiday firms are monitoring the situation and some have cancelled flights or offered to amend bookings for those due to travel to affected areas in the coming days.

The cruise company Carnival has cancelled four cruises bound for the Caribbean that were due to depart over the next few days - and warned that others may be cut short.

The Foreign Office urges people planning to go to the areas to follow the advice from the local authorities, including any evacuation orders, and check its official travel guidance before travelling.

It has set up a hotline for people affected by the disaster and for people whose loved ones may be affected on 020 7008 0000.

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Hurricane Irma: Time runs out for Florida evacuation

Miami skyline as outer bands of Irma reach southern Florida - 9 SeptemberImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The outer bands of Irma have already reached Miami

Florida's state governor has told residents ordered to leave their homes to go to shelters and avoid the roads as Hurricane Irma approaches.

Rick Scott said it was now too late to drive away from the danger areas.

After devastating several Caribbean islands, Irma is lashing Cuba with strong winds and heavy rain, and is due to make landfall in Florida on Sunday.

Some 6.3 million people, more than 25% of the US state's population, have been ordered to evacuate.

The hurricane made landfall on the Sabana-Camaguey Archipelago, in Cuba's north-east, late on Friday as a category five storm but has now weakened to a category three.

At 15:00 GMT, Irma had maximum sustained winds of 201km/h (125mph), the National Hurricane centre in the US said.

It was the first category five hurricane to hit Cuba in more than 80 years, and it is expected to strengthen again before reaching Florida.

At least 20 people are so far known to have died as Hurricane Irma progressed across the Caribbean throughout the week.

What is happening in Florida?

Irma is expected to hit the coast at around lunchtime on Sunday, but the outer bands are already affecting the south of the state and central Miami is being lashed by heavy rain.

The Florida Keys - a chain of small islands to the south - have suffered some minor damage.

About 25,000 people are currently without electricity, energy provider Florida Power and Light reported.

The western Gulf coast is expected to be worst affected, with cities such as Tampa and St Petersburg in the path of the storm.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Shelters are filling up quickly and people are queuing to get inside
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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWatch: The Floridians who won't leave

And there are fears that storm surges combined with high tide on Monday could overwhelm some low-lying areas.

Florida Governor Rick Scott issued a stark warning to those in threatened areas.

"Look, it's getting late," he told NBC. "If you're not on the road on the west coast by noon [16:00 GMT], you need to get to a shelter, get to a friend's house if you're in an evacuation zone. Get off the road."

He said that storm surges in coastal areas could be as high as 12ft (3.7m), adding that people "cannot survive this".

Some 50,000 people have gone to shelters throughout the state, the governor said. Media reports say shelters in some areas have been filling up quickly and some people have been turned away.

Miami city and Broward county have imposed curfews to help clear the roads of traffic.

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWATCH: Hurricane Hunters fly over eye of storm to help forecasters

What do we know about the situation in Cuba?

Cuban officials have reported "significant damage", without giving further details, but said there were no confirmed casualties yet, AFP news agency reported.

However, if the devastation seen elsewhere in the Caribbean is anything to go by, many Cubans fear the worst, the BBC's Will Grant in Havana reports.

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWatch: Footage shows the central province of Villa Clara battered by wind and rain

The state weather service has forecast waves up to 9m high in some coastal areas. There have been reports of huge waves breaking over sea walls, particularly in the fishing village of Caibarien.

Power lines have been brought down in several parts of the central province of Camaguey, and transport links to at least one of the outlying islands have been cut off.

Thousands of people have been evacuated but many others stayed to ride out the storm.

Irma is likely to continue along Cuba's perimeter for several more hours before beginning to shift back out to sea and towards the southern US.

Which other areas have already been hit?

p05fjbwv.jpg
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionRose Brooks, who survived the storm that decimated Barbuda, describes the chaos
  • St Martin and St Barthelemy: Six out of 10 homes on St Martin, an island shared between France and the Netherlands, now uninhabitable, French officials say. They said nine people had died and seven were missing in the French territories, while two are known to have died in Dutch Sint Maarten
  • Turks and Caicos Islands: Widespread damage, although extent unclear
  • Barbuda: The small island is said to be "barely habitable", with 95% of the buildings damaged. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne estimates reconstruction will cost $100m (£80m). One death has been confirmed
  • Anguilla: Extensive damage with one person confirmed dead
  • Puerto Rico: More than 6,000 residents of the US territory are in shelters and many more without power. At least three people have died
  • British Virgin Islands: Widespread damage reported
  • US Virgin Islands: Damage to infrastructure was said to be widespread, with four deaths confirmed
  • Haiti and the Dominican Republic: Both battered by the storm, but neither had as much damage as initially feared
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWhere Irma and Jose go next

What about Hurricanes Jose and Katia?

Another storm, Jose, further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, is now a category four hurricane, with winds of up to 240km/h (150mph).

It is following a similar path to Irma and already hampering relief efforts in some of the worst affected areas.

Residents of Barbuda, where 95% of buildings have been destroyed by Irma, have now left the island as Jose approaches.

Hurricane Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, a category one storm with winds of up to 75mph, made landfall on the Mexican Gulf coast in the state of Veracruz late on Friday.

It has now weakened to a tropical depression.


Are you in the region? Are you a holidaymaker unable to get a flight home or a resident who has been preparing for Hurricane Irma? If it is safe for you to do so, share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Or use the form below:

Your contact details

If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.

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