Sept. 7 (UPI) — Powerful Hurricane Irma killed at least 10 people and left a path of destruction in the eastern Caribbean Islands on Thursday.
The Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph, destroyed the islands’ homes and buildings and left millions without electricity.
The death toll, which was likely to rise, was eight in St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, one in Anguilla and one, a child, in Barbuda.
Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said the island of 1,600 people was “barely habitable” with about 95 percent of the structures damaged and communication cut off Wednesday.
From Antigua, he told the BBC it would cost $100 million to rebuild Barbuda.
Browne said Antigua, with a population of around 80,000 people, escaped major damage but airplanes are unable to land on the island.
Princess Juliana International Airport, the third largest in the Caribbean, was destroyed in the Dutch controlled Sint Maarten in St. Martin. The northern French side also was heavily destroyed.
“It’s an enormous catastrophe — 95 percent of the island is destroyed,” top local official Daniel Gibbs told BBC of Saint Martin.
The storm passed by Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon, leaving about two-thirds of the island’s 1 million electric customers without power in the U.S. territory. Ramos, chief executive of the island’s electric utility, also said 56,000 of the nation’s 3.4 million residents were without potable water.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello told CNN Puerto Rico was hit hard even though the eye of the storm was off shore with winds of more than 100 mph.
“From the center of operations that we have over here in San Juan, there is pretty significant damage already done,” he said.
Charlyn Gaztambide Janer told NBC News “this is a lot better than it was predicted to be” although power was out in her home in the San Juan suburb of Guaynabo.
“I lived through Hurricane Hugo [in 1989] and that was far, far worse. That was horrible. This is nothing compared to that.”
Michael Coleman, who took shelter in a cement bunker in the U.S. Virgin Islands’ St. Thomas said “the wind was so intense. Trees and roofs flying.”
In the British Virgin Islands, Kennedy Banda said he and his family were taking shelter in a bathroom as the strong winds blew out the windows of his home. The hurricane’s eye passed over the north islands.
The most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade was headed to the Dominican Republican and Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and Florida but was forecast by the National Hurricane Center to drop to a Category 4.
In the Bahamas, emergency evacuations have been ordered for six southern islands — Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay and Ragged Island.
“This is the largest such evacuation in the history of the country,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said.