Hurricane Irma killed eight people on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin and left Barbuda devastated on Thursday as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century took aim at Florida.
Television footage of the Franco-Dutch island of Saint Martin showed a damaged marina with boats tossed into piles, submerged streets and flooded homes. Power was knocked out on Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy and in parts of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
“It is an enormous disaster, 95 percent of the island is destroyed. I am in shock,” Daniel Gibbs, chairman of a local council on Saint Martin, told Radio Caribbean International.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said eight people were killed and the toll was likely to rise.
“We did not have the time yet to explore all the shores,” Collomb told Franceinfo radio, adding that 23 people were also injured. In all, at least 10 people were reported killed by Irma on four islands.
Irma caused “enormous damage” to the Dutch side of Saint Martin, called Sint Maarten, the Dutch Royal Navy said. The navy tweeted images gathered by helicopter of damaged houses, hotels and boats. The airport was unreachable, it said.
The hurricane was on track to reach Florida on Saturday or Sunday, becoming the second major hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland in as many weeks after Hurricane Harvey.
The eye of Irma was moving west-northwest off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic on Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
The island of Barbuda is a scene of “total carnage” and the tiny two-island nation will seek international assistance, said Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda.
Browne told the BBC about half of Barbuda’s population of some 1,800 were homeless while nine out of 10 buildings had suffered some damage and many were destroyed.