Hurricane Irma hits Caribbean islands
A Dutch navy spokeswoman says that marines who flew to three islands hammered by Hurricane Irma have seen a lot of damage, but have no immediate reports of casualties.
The Category 5 storm made a direct hit Wednesday on the island where the Dutch territory of St. Maarten is located, though the scope of damage isn’t yet clear. Some 100 Dutch marines flew to the islands on Monday to prepare for the hurricane.
Navy spokeswoman Karen Loos says that some troops were able to send images of destruction from St. Maarten and another island, St. Eustatius.
Loos says, “You do see there is a lot of damage. Trees, houses, roofs that are blown out. A lot of water, high water.”
She says the extent of the damage elsewhere on the island is not yet clear.
The first of two Dutch naval vessels heading for the islands is expected to arrive at 8 p.m. local time in St. Maarten.
President Donald Trump says Hurricane Irma looks like “something that could be not good.”
Ahead of a meeting with Congressional leaders Wednesday, Trump said the group had a lot to discuss, including what “seems to be record-breaking hurricane heading right toward Florida and Puerto Rico and other places.”
Trump says “we’ll see what happens.” He adds: “it looks like it could be something that could be not good, believe me not good.”
Hurricane Irma is the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history. It made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean early Wednesday. Trump has declared emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser says the government can handle Hurricane Irma relief because the life-saving phase for Hurricane Harvey is over and has entered a longer term phase focused on individuals.
Tom Bossert tells The Associated Press that the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas are not being forgotten as Irma hits the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and possibly Florida later this week. He says those in the path of the newest storm should heed evacuation orders.
For Harvey, he says the government is working on longer-term assistance, such as Small Business Administration loans, unemployment wages and reconstruction.
The U.S. State Department is warning U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Cuba, Haiti or the Dominican Republic due to the expected impact of Hurricane Irma.
It notes that the Category 5 storm could bring life-threatening flooding, flash flooding, mudslides, and storm surge, while travel and other services will likely be disrupted.
The department says it has authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. government employees and their family members from the three countries due to the hurricane.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne says the twin-island nation appears to have weathered its brush with Hurricane Irma.
Browne says in a statement that there were no deaths in Antigua.
He says that preliminary reports also indicate there are no deaths in Barbuda despite widespread reports of damaged buildings and downed trees. He plans to visit as soon as possible.
The prime minister says the airport will reopen at 2 p.m.
Hurricane Irma has caused torn off rooftops and knocked out all electricity on the French islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy and France has requisitioned planes and sent in emergency food and water rations.
The regional authority for Guadeloupe and neighboring islands said in a statement Wednesday that the fire station in Saint Barthelemy is under 1 meter (more than 3 feet) of water and no rescue vehicles can move.
It said the government headquarters Saint Martin is partially destroyed and the island is in a total blackout.
Electricity is also partially down on the larger island of Guadeloupe, where the threat receded despite danger of heavy flooding.
French minister for overseas territories Annick Girardin expressed fear “for a certain number of our compatriots who unfortunately didn’t want to listen to the protection measures and go to more secure sites.”
She added: “We’re preparing for the worst.”
President Donald Trump says his administration is closely watching Hurricane Irma.
On Twitter Wednesday, Trump says his “team, which has done, and is doing, such a good job in Texas, is already in Florida.” He adds: “No rest for the weary!”
In a subsequent statement on Twitter, Trump says “Hurricane looks like largest ever recorded in the Atlantic!”
Hurricane Irma made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean early Wednesday. It’s on a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.
Trump has declared emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The plane flying Pope Francis to Colombia is flying a changed flight path to avoid Hurricane Irma, which is slamming the Caribbean.
The special Alitalia jetliner, which departed late Wednesday morning from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport, had been originally scheduled to fly over Puerto Rico and Venezuela before entering Colombia airspace. Instead, the revised route takes it south of the U.S. territory and includes flying over Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Vatican traditionally issues telegrams of papal greetings to nations he flies over while on pilgrimages. So the updated flight plan meant the Vatican had to draft new telegrams.
Francis’ pilgrimage to Colombia is aimed at helping to solidify the South American nation’s peace process. He returns to Rome on Sept. 11.