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07 Sep 2017

BY Jennifer Morris

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Barbuda suffers '95% damage' in Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma has destroyed an airport in the Caribbean and led to a number of cruise cancellations.

Palm trees suffer hurricane winds
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A state of emergency has been called across all of Florida and a number of islands

Barbuda is thought to have suffered the worst damage from Hurricane Irma so far, with early reports suggesting that 95% of its buildings have been damaged.

 

While Antigua escaped relatively unscathed, its tiny island neighbour bore the brunt of winds which gusted up to 185mph.

 

Communications with Barbuda were down for 14 hours and are only gradually being restored. After initially claiming both islands had been spared, Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne has now described the scene as "total carnage" and "literally rubble".

 

After flying over Barbuda by helicopter to witness the damage, he told state broadcaster ABS: "The entire housing stock was damaged. It is just a total devastation." He estimated reconstruction of the island would cost at least $150 million.

 

The island’s 1,500 inhabitants took shelter in a church, fire station and community centre, and so far only one death, a two-year-old girl, has been reported.

 

Meanwhile a state of emergency has been called across all of Florida and a number of Caribbean islands in the area. Reports this morning suggest the hurricane has left at least nine people dead.

 

Princess Juliana Airport in St Maarten, which was shut down on Tuesday as a safety precaution, has been ripped apart by the 185 mph winds, the Telegraph reports.

 

Rocks crashed into planes and passenger walkways crashed to the ground during the Category 5 hurricane. Water also flooded the terminal.

 

Antigua has reported that most residential, business and hotel properties on the island have “remained largely unscathed”.

 

The V C Bird International Airport will be open by 2pm (Eastern Standard Time) today to accommodate arriving and departing aircraft and passengers.

 

The hurricane is also strongly affecting ship operations across the Caribbean. Meanwhile Orlando’s theme parks said they were monitoring Hurricane Irma and currently remained open, although all have urged guests to monitor their websites for further information.

 

Walt Disney World, Sea World LEGOLand and Universal Studios offer comprehensive cancellation policies, giving guests full refunds should the parks close or if visitors choose not to come when there is a hurricane warning.

 

Disney said its Blizzard Beach water park would be closed on September 8 and 9.

 

Irma is tracking towards Orlando, but may alter its path when it hits land.

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