At least one person has been killed after Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean island of Barbuda on early Wednesday morning, causing widespread devastation and leaving many of the island’s residents homeless, local authorities said.
Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, flew over the island in the afternoon and estimated that 95 percent of properties had suffered damage to some degree. As many as 60 percent of the island’s population – which is estimated to be as high as 1,800 – could be homeless.
Browne said the extent of the damage was unprecedented in the island’s history and added that it would take years to rebuild. “The way it stands right now, Barbuda is practically uninhabitable. There’s no electricity, no water, no telephone, no telecommunications, or Whatsapp, nothing,” he said.
One death was reported as of early Wednesday evening, although search and rescue operations were still underway. Browne said a baby was killed while his or her parent was trying to escape from a property that had been damaged.
“We are not exactly sure whether or not there may be additional fatalities, but so far we only have one that has been reported,” the prime minister said.
“From my observation, having done an aerial survey, I would say that about 95 percent of the properties would have suffered some level of damage,” he said. “They would have lost at least a part of their roof. Some have lost whole roofs. Some properties have been totally demolished.”
Browne said the runway of Barbuda Codrington Airport had also suffered damage, making it impossible for planes to land and forcing authorities to use helicopters instead. Boats with supplies are expected to arrive on Thursday, he said.
Authorities on the island are also monitoring Hurricane Jose, which formed on Wednesday and could pose a threat to the Leeward Islands later this week, although the forecast is still uncertain. Browne said he would consider calling for a total evacuation of Barbuda if Jose threatens the island.
At least three people have been killed as a result of Hurricane Irma, one in Barbuda and two in the French Caribbean.
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