Hurricane Irma brought her fury down on the Leeward Islands in the early hours of Wednesday, Sept. 6, as it made its first landfall as a Category 5 hurricane. Kittians and Nevisians joined all of the island’s neighbors in hunkering down in the safest spaces available and praying for the best. The federation avoided the brunt of Irma’s damage due to a late turn toward the north; other islands were not so lucky, and the eye of the storm passed directly, or nearly over them. The Observer provides below as much breaking news as is available about the impact of Hurricane Irma through 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7.
Antigua and Barbuda came in close contact with the Category 5 storm, and the eye passed directly over Barbuda. The storm is so big that the entire island sat in its eye, and the storm brought chaos and destruction to the island’s population of 1,800. Antigua withstood the storm’s surging winds and rains, and fared well due to being 30 miles away from the center of the storm. Barbuda was not so lucky. All communication with Antigua’s sister island was cut-off shortly aftermidnight Wednesday morning. After seeing the devastation first hand via an emergency helicopter, the prime minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, gave a report.
“I would say that about 95 percent of the properties would have suffered some level of damage,” Browne said. “They lost at least a part of their roofs; some have lost whole roofs, some properties have been totally demolished. It is absolutely heart-wrenching.”
The full magnitude of the damage to the island is still being uncovered, but emergency crews and aid were brought over from Antigua. All cell phone towers on the island were destroyed, and communication is still not fully back online. One casualty has been confirmed.
The storm then passed directly over St. Martin, leading to widespread damages much like those seen on Barbuda. At least six casualties have been reported, and officials are concerned that number could grow as recovery and search and rescue efforts continue. Daniel Gibbs, St. Martin’s representative in the French National Assembly, spoke with Radio Caribbean International and described the island 95 percent destroyed.
The storm also harshly affected both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Four people have been confirmed dead on the U.S. Virgin Islands. Perla George, business development director for the B.V.I Tourist Board, issued a statement updating the situation.
“The full extent of the damage is unknown at this time,” she said. “It is clear the islands have been severely impacted,. At present, most communications remain down, including mobile phone service and Internet access.”
Anguilla took on a brunt of Irma’s force, and at least one person was killed in the British territory. The island’s port and airport remain closed, and Josephine Gumbs-Connor, an Anguillian lawyer, described the situation as “nuclear bomb devastation.”
More details will come as more information unfolds.