Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, has hit the Caribbean, with officials warning of its "potentially catastrophic" effects. The category five hurricane, the highest possible level, has sustained wind speeds reaching 300km/h (185mph).
Hurricane Irma is an extremely powerful tropical cyclone. It is the strongest Atlantic hurricane since Wilma of 2005 in terms of maximum sustained winds and the most intense in terms of pressure since Dean in 2007.
Irma is also the first Category 5 hurricane to impact the northern Leeward Islands on record. A typical Cape Verde hurricane. Irma developed on August 30 near the Cape Verde Islands from a tropical wave that moved off the west African coast two days prior. It is the ninth named storm, fourth hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the most devastating storm ever to hit the United States. It killed 1,833 people and caused $108 billion in damage, though it was technically a Category 3 when it made landfall in Louisiana with sustained wind speeds of 125 mph.
At its peak, Harvey was a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, but its weakened winds downgraded it to a tropical storm the day after it made landfall. Irma, meanwhile, is a Category 5 monster that's already one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded - and it's still strengthening.
- It first hit Antigua and Barbuda, before moving on to Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin.
- It is then expected to move on towards Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
- In the US, Florida's Key West area has ordered a mandatory evacuation.
The eye of the storm first hit Barbuda, which has a population of around 2,000 people, at about 02:00 local time (06:00 GMT).
Winds gusted at 250km/hr before the recording equipment broke and no further readings were received.
"Early indications seem to show that Antigua has not been too badly hit, but we cannot say the same for Barbuda as we don't yet know," reported Antigua's ABS radio. The Antigua Observer said it had received initial reports of roofs being blown off on both islands.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from at-risk areas across the Caribbean. Residents have flocked to shops for food, water, and emergency supplies.
Airports have closed on several islands, which are popular holiday destinations, and authorities have urged people to go to public shelters.
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
“No rest for the weary!" tweeted US President Trump, in reference to emergency operations being undertaken again in the country, less than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas.
Mr Trump has declared a state of emergency for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, mobilising federal disaster relief efforts for those areas.
Fear also spread to north into Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county with 2.7 million residents. Though the storm’s exact trajectory was still unknown.
Residents are asked to stock up on food and water and warned that evacuation orders could follow in some areas. Today, the county already planned to start evacuating those with special needs.
Our assessment is that this hurricane is far too powerful and poses far too great a threat. The government should take immediate and prior actions to save the lives of people. Hurricane Harvey which attacked the US costed at least $503 Billion. Hurricane Irma might lead to a larger destruction compared to Harvey.
Is the US economy ready for that?