Deaths reported as Hurricane Irma batters northern Caribbean islands source cnn news
(CNN)Reports of fatalities and widespread damage in northern Caribbean islands began to emerge Wednesday night after Hurricane Irma blasted through, packing devastating winds and rain.
“Barbuda right now is literally a rubble,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda told an interviewer with ABS TV/Radio Antigua.
“The entire housing stock was damaged,” Browne said after visiting the island of 1,800. “It is just a total devastation.”
Irma killed at least three people, destroyed government buildings, tore roofs from houses and left islands without power or communications. St. Martin/St. Maarten and St. Barts also felt the fury of the Category 5 storm, one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic, according to updates from the region.
Browne said there currently is no water or phone service for Barbuda residents. He said one fatality, an infant, had been confirmed.
Communication was disrupted after winds snapped a cell tower in two on the island.
One woman told ABS TV/Radio her family of seven, including a 2-month-old infant, crammed into a closet before the hurricane force winds. The storm ripped the roof off, and they huddled together until rescuers reached them. Her home is destroyed, the woman said.
“My main concern now is, how we’re going to survive after this,” the Barbuda resident said.
One man, whose home was also destroyed, echoed the woman’s concerns.
“My family has nowhere to go,” he told ABS/TV Radio.
Another Barbuda resident it felt like “the whole house was ripping apart.” The woman called 911 and authorities told the family to get in the closet or the bathroom.
“I start praying and I ask God to just come and help me get out of this house because the house was like tearing apart,” she told ABS TV/Radio Antigua. “It was like sucking us up, because we were holding on the bathroom door.”
Irma destroyed government buildings, tore roofs from houses and left northern Caribbean islands without power or communications.
“In terms of material damage, the four strongest buildings on the island of St. Martin have been destroyed,” which meant that weaker structures likely had been damaged or destroyed, French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told reporters.
Xaverius van der Hoek, who lives on St. Maarten, said his home — which has a concrete roof and hurricane shutters — was spared, but many other homes suffered damage.
“There is a sense of dread … utility poles are down everywhere. There is no power and no public water and it appears it may take a long time to restore,” he told CNN. “From my balcony alone, I count at least 24 homes and apartment building with either partial or entire roofs missing.”
Van der Hoek said he get power from a generator. But he only has fuel to last about a week.
“Firefighters have taken shelter in an upstairs room. A number of houses have suffered damage, roofs have been ripped out. Total loss of electricity,” it said.
The mayor’s office in St. Martin has been damaged, the update from Guadeloupe said, and the mayor and 23 others took shelter in a concrete-walled room.
The island has been without electricity since 6 a.m. local time, it said.
Virginia Barreras told CNN she was riding out the storm in a hotel in St. Martin.
“The palm trees are bent over and (I) can’t see anything but white,” she said before Irma’s core passed over the island. “The walls shake when the wind blows hard, and we can hear debris being thrown around.”
Footage posted to YouTube by PTZtv.com from Maho Beach, St. Maarten, showed winds so powerful they reportedly took out the webcam filming the scene. St. Maarten is the Dutch part of the island.