Hurricane Irma devastates Turks and Caicos islands08/09/17Environment
Hurricane Irma has torn through the Turks and Caicos Islands after leaving a trail of devastation across the Caribbean, killing at least 14 people.
Florida is preparing for the arrival of the Atlantic’s most deadly storm in history, which has already left thousands homeless. Emergency chiefs warn it will have a “truly devastating” impact on the US.
Some 500,000 people were told to leave south Florida with Irma due on 10 September.
The hurricane’s winds have moderated slightly, at up to 165mph.
An estimated 1.2 million people have been affected by Irma and that could rise to 26 million, the Red Cross says.
There are concerns that disease could spread rapidly in areas where drinking water and sanitation services have broken down, and officials have warned that the death toll is likely to rise.
Irma is near the Turks and Caicos Islands and is projected to move towards the Bahamas.
Irma ripped off roofs on the main island, Grand Turk, flooded streets, snapped utility poles and caused a widespread black-out.
Governor John Freeman said that people in low-lying areas were evacuated and sent to shelters. The islands’ highest point is only 50m.
Virginia Clerveaux, director of the Turks and Caicos Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies, warned that even inland areas could be inundated by the storm surge.
Clerveaux said: “We are expecting inundation from both rainfall as well as storm surge. And we may not be able to come rescue [residents] in a timely manner.”
The UK, France, and the Netherlands have sent ships, rescue teams and emergency supplies to their territories that have been affected by Hurricane Irma.
However, some aid efforts are being hampered by damage to local airports and harbours.
Irma is due to hit Florida as a category four hurricane, bringing storm surges and flooding.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said: “If you look at the size of this storm, it’s huge.
“It’s wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts on both coasts – coast to coast.”