Powerful Hurricane Irma hits first Caribbean islands

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ST. JOHN'S, Antigua (AP) - The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean.

This is what part of St. Martin in the Caribbean looked like in the lull of Hurricane Irma's eye, Photo Date: 9/6/17

The National Weather Service said the eye of Hurricane Irma passed over Barbuda around 1:47 a.m. Residents said over local radio that phone lines went down as the eye passed.

The National Hurricane Center said Irma was maintaining Category 5 strength with sustained winds near 185 mph (295 kmh) and heading west-northwest on a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.

The government has confirmed one death on Barbuda caused by Hurricane Irma.

Midcie Francis, spokesperson for National Office of Disaster Services for Antigua and Barbuda, says there has been massive destruction on the island of about 1,700 people.

"A significant number of the houses have been totally destroyed," said Lionel Hurst, the prime minister's chief of staff.

Dutch authorities are trying to gauge the extent of damage in Sint Maarten from Hurricane Irma, but officials say it appears to be significant.

Sint Maarten is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and shares an island with the French territory of St. Martin. The island is east of Puerto Rico.

Dutch Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk says the damage wreaked on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten by Category 5 Hurricane Irma is "enormous."

Dutch Caribbean coast guard spokesman Roderick Gouverneur says coast guard officials in Curacao have lost communication with their base in Sint Maarten.

Plasterk told reporters in The Hague on Wednesday that the damage caused by Irma's direct hit on the island "is so major that we don't yet have a full picture, also because contact is difficult at the moment."

He says it remains unclear if Irma caused casualties.

About 100 troops are on the island helping local authorities assess damage and repair vital infrastructure in the storm's aftermath. Two navy ships are also steaming to the island to offer help.



 
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