This report has been updated.
Wind has been a powerful component of Hurricane Irma,
reducing to rubble the island of Barbuda, obliterating buildings on St. Maarten/Martin and
inflicting major damage on others, including Anguilla, St. Barts and Tortola in
the British Virgin Islands.
Those winds have been sustained at 180 mph for more than 24
hours, a record length of time for an Atlantic hurricane, according to the
National Hurricane Center.
As the storm bears down on the low-lying islands of the
Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas and then Florida, what Irma has left in her
wake is death, destruction, devastation and loss.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte described "enormous
devastation" to the Dutch side of the Dutch-French island of
St.Maarten/Martin, according to Reuters. The storm pummeled the Princess
Juliana Airport, upended boats, tore off roofs, leveled homes and businesses,
damaged the harbor and cut off electricity and gas.
The French side apparently fared no better, and has been cut
off from any means of communication since taking a direct hit on Sept. 6 as did
neighboring St. Barts. Damaged structures in St. Martin, included the
Hotel Riu Palace, but the hotel confirmed that all guests and employees were fine.
A French delegation of troops, soldiers and supplies has
flown to the French island of Guadeloupe to coordinate rescue and recovery
After surveying the damage on Barbuda from the air, Gaston
Browne, prime minister of the dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda,
described the island as "barely habitable."
"What I saw was heart-wrenching -- I mean, absolutely
devastating," reported the New York Times.
He estimated that it would cost at least $150 million to
bring the island to normalcy.
The fear is that Hurricane Jose, trailing Irma, will hit some
of the islands impacted by Irma, including Barbuda in the next week. If that
happens, the prime minister said the 1,600 Barbuda residents would have to be
Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority reported that 70% of
its customers were without service after the storm passed Wednesday night and
warned that it could be weeks or longer before some areas get power back.
The State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management said the most affected municipalities were
Utuado, a central mountainous region north of Ponce; Fajardo, east of San Juan,
and the island of Culebra.
"Irma hit the British Virgin Islands directly, and it is clear that the islands have been severely impacted, although the full extent of the damage is unknown at this time," said Perla George, business development director of the British Virgin Islands' Tourist Board. "At present, most communications remain down, including mobile phone service and internet access. The government has begun to coordinate humanitarian relief efforts and initial clean-up operations."
This report was last updated Sept. 7 at 9:40 p.m. Eastern.