Irma: Category 5 hurricane flattens 'most solid buildings' on Saint Martin island

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Wednesday 06 September 2017 14:46
Dramatic footage as NOAA plane flies into Irma

The four "most solid" buildings on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin have been destroyed as Hurricane Irma wreaks major damage in the region, the French government has said.

Serious flooding and building damage has affected a number of islands, French interior minister Gerard Collomb said.

"We know that the four most solid buildings on the island have been destroyed which means that more rustic structures have probably been completely or partially destroyed," he told reporters.

The French government has confirmed there are electrical blackouts and widespread flooding on the islands of St Barthélemy and St Martin.

Irma, a category five "major" hurricane according to US authorities, has wind speeds up to 185mph. The hurricane has become the most powerful ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean, and the US National Hurricane Center has warned of “potentially catastrophic” effects.

Donald Trump said his administration is keeping an eye on the storm as it approaches the US. Irma is likely to make landfall somewhere in Florida over the weekend.

Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have declared states of emergency.

Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, has said Irma's exact path is unknown, but that the storm could affect "millions of Floridians".

Because of Irma’s size and power, very dangerous weather could also occur up to 200 miles away from the eyewall, the most devastating region of a hurricane.

As Florida and nearby states and territories prepare to be battered by Irma, Texas continues to reel from the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in August.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has suggested repair costs could total $180bn, and Mr Trump sent Congress a $7.9bn request for an initial down payment for Harvey relief and recovery efforts.

"Watching Hurricane closely. My team, which has done, and is doing, such a good job in Texas, is already in Florida," the President tweeted. "No rest for the weary!"

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