Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, impacted parts of the northeastern Caribbean on Wednesday, killing at least two people and causing major damage on St. Martin and Saint Barthélemy.
The category 5 storm – with maximum sustained winds near 185 miles (295 kilometers) per hour – caused widespread damage and flooding in the French part of the island of Saint Martin, knocking out power to residents, littering the streets with debris from damaged buildings, and destroying boats in the port.
French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed on late Wednesday that a number of people had been killed in the French Caribbean, adding that the storm’s impact will be “hard and cruel.” Annick Girardin, the French minister for Overseas Territories, said at least two people were killed.
The regional government said the prefecture building had been partially destroyed by the powerful storm, forcing the region’s top official and 23 others to seek shelter in a concrete building. The island has been without power since 6 a.m. local time.
Major damage was also reported in Sint Maarten, which encompasses the southern part of Saint Martin and is a country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
“The damage is enormous but it is so severe that we don’t have a full picture yet, also because much of the contact is very difficult at this moment,” said Dutch Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk. He added that it was not yet known whether anyone had been killed in Sint Maarten.
On Saint Barthélemy, which is part of France, scores of homes were said to have been damaged, according to the regional government. It said in a situation report that many homes had lost their roof and the island was hit by a total blackout.
Hurricane Irma retained its strength while moving over the islands, after which it headed to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. It will then hit Puerto Rico before passing near the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas over the next few days. Irma could also impact Florida on Sunday.
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