Irma’s destruction: island by island

The category five hurricane has ripped through the Caribbean, leaving flattened landscapes, flash floods and loss of life

Antigua and Barbuda

Barbuda, the first island to feel the force of Hurricane Irma was devastated by its high winds, with Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, saying 90% of buildings had been destroyed and 50% of the population of around 1,000 people left homeless. 

One person – a two-year-old child – is confirmed to have died in the storm. Michael Joseph, president of the Red Cross in Antigua and Barbuda said:

The devastation is not like we’ve ever seen before – we’re talking about the whole country … of Barbuda being significantly destroyed.

Critical facilities including roads and communications systems were ravaged, with the recovery effort set to take months or years. Some residents are expected to be evacuated to the larger sister island of Antigua – where damage was less severe – as part of relief efforts and ahead of the prospective arrival of Hurricane Jose this weekend.

Browne said he would order the evacuation of Barbuda if forecasters predict that Jose will hit the island in the coming days


One person died in the British overseas territory, said Ronald Jackson, executive director of the Caribbean disaster and emergency management agency, who added that “police stations, hospitals, school facilities, three or four emergency shelters, a home for the infirm and the aged, as well as the fire station”, along with many homes, had been damaged or destroyed.

St Kitts & Nevis

Prime minister Timothy Harris said St Kitts was “spared the full brunt” of Irma, but warned of “significant damage” to property and infrastructure, as well as power failures. The airport reopened on Thursday. A hurricane warning and flash-flooding watch have been discontinued, and residents and visitors given the all-clear.

St Martin and St Barts

The French part of the island (the southern side, St Maarten, is administered by the Netherlands) was “95% destroyed”, according to Daniel Gibb, a local official, who called it “an enormous catastrophe”:

I have sick people to evacuate, I have a population to evacuate because I don’t know where I can shelter them.

Four people were killed in St Martin, according to French prime minister Édouard Philippe, who said 50 were injured across the island and another French overseas collectivity, Saint Barthélemy (St Barts). Power was cut across the island and many roads are impassable.

The number of victims on the Dutch half of the island, St Maarten, is unknown. Netherlands prime minister Mark Rutte says there has been “enormous material damage” to St Maarten, and has sent marines and two aid flights.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, earlier said he expected Irma-related damage to St Martin and St Barts would be “considerable”. France’s overseas minister, Annick Girardin, travelled to the Caribbean with emergency teams and supplies.

Virgin Islands

Significant damage has been reported from the British Virgin Islands, where critical facilities, as well as homes, businesses and supermarkets, have been devastated.

UK foreign minister Alan Duncan said: “The British Virgin Islands were also not spared the hurricane’s full force. Our initial assessment is of severe damage and we expect that the islands will need extensive humanitarian assistance which we will of course provide.”

Sam Branson, son of Virgin businessman Richard Branson – who saw out the storm in a bunker on his private island of Necker – said “a lot of buildings” had been destroyed.

Four people are confirmed to have died in the US Virgin Islands, with a government spokesman predicting the toll would rise. US president Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency and a major disaster. There were reports of extensive damage to buildings, and of land entirely stripped of vegetation.

Many roads are inaccessible in the USVI, and schools are reported to be destroyed.

Puerto Rico

Lashing winds and rains have left more than a million people without power and tens of thousands without water. Images from the island showed flash flooding, and hospitals were forced to rely on generators.

Three people – two women and a man – have been confirmed dead, and rescuers are searching for the missing. Waves of up to 30 feet (9 metres) were reported. Several thousand people remain in emergency shelters.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló has also declared a disaster in the tiny islands of Culebra and Vieques, to Puerto Rico’s east, which were hard-hit by the storm. So far there has been little information from the islands.

Irma is the worst hurricane to hit the island since 1928, when Hurricane San Felipe killed more than 2,700 people across Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe and Florida.

Dominican Republic

Pictures from the Dominican Republic – where Irma passed to the north – show widespread damage: flattened buildings, downed trees and power lines. The coastal resorts of Cabarete and Sosua were reported to have seen storm surges, and more than 5,000 people were evacuated across the country.

On Thursday, Juan Manuel Mendez, director of the centre of emergency operations, said people there should “not let down their guard … the worst isn’t over”.


Irma continued its path across the north of Hispaniola – the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti – taking down a key bridge between the two. Heavy rains thrashed the north coast and several areas lost power.

Two people were reportedly injured in the northern port town of Cap-Haïtien when a tree crashed into their home.

Officials had admitted they were not prepared for the onslaught and no mandatory evacuation orders were in place ahead of Irma’s approach. But reportsfrom Cap-Haïtien so far suggest Haiti has been spared the worst effects of the category 5.

Turks and Caicos

Irma was “pummelling” the British overseas territory on Thursday evening, the US National Hurricane Center said, with winds of 175mph (280kmh).

Governor John Freeman said some people had been moved to shelters ahead of the hurricane’s arrival, but warned others to:

Hunker down, stay where you are … Nobody can get to you either – people are, for a little while, on their own.

Electricity supplies had failed on Grand Turk, which meant water production was also out, Freeman said.


Overnight on Thursday, the eye of the storm moved on to the southern Bahamas, passing just north of Great Inagua island. The US National Hurricane Center warned that storm surges could lift water levels in south-eastern and central Bahamas by 15-20ft (4.5-6m) above normal levels.

Bahamas prime minister Hubert Minnis said his government had evacuated people from six islands in the south to the capital, Nassau, in the largest storm evacuation in the country’s history. Airports have been closed.


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