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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

What we know about hurricanes Irma and Jose: facts, figures, forecast

Forecasters expect Hurricane Irma to 'restrengthen' as it approaches mainland Florida

Damaged buildings and fallen trees litter downtown Marigot, on the island of St. Martin, after the passing of Hurricane Irma. Amandine Ascensio / AP Photo
Damaged buildings and fallen trees litter downtown Marigot, on the island of St. Martin, after the passing of Hurricane Irma. Amandine Ascensio / AP Photo

Hurricane Irma has pounded the Caribbean, leaving at least 25 people dead, destroying thousands of homes and triggering a mass evacuation in the US state of Florida.

After making landfall in Cuba's Camaguey archipelago late Friday, Irma is now bearing down on Florida, where authorities have ordered 6.3 million people to evacuate.

Irma, previously a top-rated category five storm, weakened on Saturday to category four and then to a category three, packing 205 kilometres per hour. On Sunday morning Irma was centered about 90 kilometers south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and was moving northwest near 9 kph.

With near-hurricane force winds lashing the Florida Keys, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that "Irma is forecast to restrengthen" as it approaches mainland Florida.

A second category four hurricane, Jose, followed part of Irma's track, but spared storm-hit Caribbean islands of St Martin and St Barts, which had already suffered catastrophic damage.

Jose is expected to veer north and pose no threat to the United States.

Toll from Irma

The death toll stands has risen to 25: 12 in the French island of St Barts and the Dutch-French territory of St Martin; six in British Caribbean islands; at least four in the US Virgin Islands; at least two in Puerto Rico; and one in Barbuda.

The International Red Cross says 1.2 million people have already been affected by Irma - a number that could rise to 26 million.

The bill for loss and damage could hit $120 billion in the United States and Caribbean, according to data modelling firm Enki Research.

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Barbuda

Irma hit the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda last week with winds up to 295 kph. The island suffered "absolute devastation," with more than 30 percent of properties demolished, prime minister Gaston Browne said.

One person is known to have died on the island of 1,600 residents, apparently a child whose family was trying to get to safer ground.

St Barts, St Martin and Anguilla

Irma then slammed into the holiday islands of St Barts and St Martin, wielding monster winds and torrential rain.

St Martin is divided between France and the Netherlands. France said 10 people had died on its side, while the Netherlands said the storm killed two on the Dutch side, called Sint Maarten.


                  <p>A palm tree lays on a car after the passage of Hurricane Irma, near the shore in Marigot, on the island of St. Martin, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. The island is divided between French St. Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten. (AP Photo/Amandine Ascensio</p>
A palm tree lays on a car after the passage of Hurricane Irma, near the shore in Marigot, on the island of St. Martin. The island is divided between French St. Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten. Amandine Ascensio / AP Photo

On the Dutch side, 70 percent of the infrastructure has been destroyed.

Debris still clogs the streets, many homes are uninhabitable, communications are still down, tens of thousands are without food, water or power, and the authorities are struggling to prevent looting.

In the British archipelago of Anguilla, one man was crushed to death in a house collapse.

British Virgin Islands

Five people have been killed in the British Virgin Islands, according to the local government. Just east of Puerto Rico, it is home to roughly 28,000 people and includes British billionaire Richard Branson's Necker Island.

US Virgin Islands

At least four people have been killed in the US Virgin Islands, officials told AFP.

Puerto Rico

At least two people were killed in the US territory of Puerto Rico, and more than half of its three million residents were without power after rivers broke their banks in the centre and north of the island.

Dominican Republic

Some 20,000 people were evacuated and more than 2,000 homes affected by floods in the Dominican Republic, the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola, which is also shared by Haiti.

Haiti

Irma brought flooding and caused several injuries in Haiti, but passed further north than had been forecast, sparing the impoverished island the worst. A number of roads were washed out.

Cuba

Irma made landfall on the island's Camaguey Archipelago late Friday. Close to a million people have left their homes to stay with relatives or in shelters and the electricity supply cut as a precautionary measure.

Cuba had already evacuated 10,000 foreign tourists from beach resorts and raised its disaster alert level to maximum ahead of Irma's arrival.

Irma: Where next?

Irma is expected to track along the peninsula's western coast, which faces the Gulf of Mexico, rather than the more heavily populated Atlantic side, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

But the storm is so wide that the authorities have ordered 6.3 million people to evacuate.

The US military is mobilising thousands of troops and deploying several large ships to help with evacuations and humanitarian relief.

A state of emergency has been declared in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Georgia ordered the evacuation of the city of Savannah and other coastal areas.

Hurricanes Jose and Katia

Hurricane Jose, after strengthening to category four status, passed 135 kilometres north of St Barts and 125 kilometres from Saint Martin.

France's meteorological agency had issued its highest warning, saying Hurricane Jose could become a "dangerous event of exceptional intensity".

But "thanks to a passage which was further away than anticipated, the effects on the territory were markedly less," the meteorological agency said.

Another hurricane, Katia, made landfall in eastern Mexico on Friday killing two people, just as the country grappled with damage inflicted by its worst earthquake in a century.

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