Florida lies in path of disastrous Irma
FRENCH, British and Dutch military authorities rushed aid to a devastated string of Caribbean islands after Hurricane Irma left at least 11 people dead and thousands homeless as it spun toward Florida for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.
Warships and planes were dispatched with food, water and troops after the fearsome Category 5 storm smashed homes, schools and roads, laying waste to some of the world’s most beautiful and exclusive tourist destinations.
Hundreds of miles to the west, Florida braced for the onslaught, with forecasters warning that Irma could slam headlong into the Miami metropolitan area of six million people, punish the entire length of the state’s Atlantic coast and move into Georgia and South Carolina.
It is likely to hit late tomorrow (AEST).
More than a half million people in Miami-Dade County were ordered to leave as Irma closed in with winds of 280km/h.
“Take it seriously, because this is the real deal,” said Major Jeremy DeHart, a US Air Force Reserve weather officer who flew through the eye of Irma at 10,000 feet.
About a million people were without power in Puerto Rico after Irma sideswiped the island overnight and nearly half the territory’s hospitals were relying on generators. No injuries were reported.
The first islands hit by the storm were scenes of terrible destruction. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said four people were confirmed dead and about 50 injured on the French side of St. Martin, an island split between Dutch and French control.
The toll could rise because rescue teams had yet to get a complete look at the damage.
At least four people were killed in the US Virgin Islands and officials said they expected to find more bodies.
Authorities described the damage as catastrophic and said crews were struggling to reopen roads and restore power. Three more deaths were reported on the British island of Anguilla, independent Barbuda and the Dutch side of St. Martin.
Orient Bay on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin was one of the worst-affected areas from Hurricane Irma. The island is divided between the Netherlands and France. About 60 per cent of homes on the island were damaged so badly they were uninhabitable.