Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said 95% of the buildings on Barbuda were damaged when the core of Category 5 Hurricane Irma crossed almost directly over the island early Wednesday. He said the island is “literally under water” and “barely habitable” after Hurricane Irma passed through.
Browne said “Barbuda now is literally rubble.”
About 60% of the island’s population of 1,800 is now homeless and roads and telecommunications systems were wrecked, Browne said. Recovery could take months, if not years, he added.
A 2-year-old child died while the family tried to escape, the prime minister said. Another death was reported in Anguilla, and six people died in the French part of St. Martin. The death toll, at eight so far, is expected to rise.
The hurricane made landfall in Barbuda around 2 p.m. before moving through the Caribbean to Puerto Rico late Wednesday night.
The storm has also inflicted significant damage on St. Martin, St. Bart’s, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands before it left more than 900,000 people in Puerto Rico without electricity, and 50,000 without water.
Irma is expected to move northeast towards Cuba before it is expected to head north towards Florida sometime Sunday.
Gov. Rick Scott said he planned to activate 7,000 National Guard soldiers, and residents in the Sunshine State are preparing the hurricane as authorities issue mandatory evacuations.
Authorities in Florida issued emergency warnings on Tuesday, with officials in Georgia and South Carolina following suit for their states’ coastal areas after forecasts showed Irma veering northward.