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    Hurricane Irma decimates Leeward Islands of the Caribbean before raging across Florida



    Americas: United States


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    Americas: Cuba

    Americas: Bahamas

    Americas: Antigua and Barbuda

    Europe: United Kingdom overseas territories

    Europe: French overseas territories

    Europe: Netherlands overseas territories


    Hurricane Irma decimates Leeward Islands of the Caribbean before raging across Florida


    Early September 2017 was marked by the wrath of monster Hurricane Irma, which decimated several islands of the Leeward Caribbean before raging across the state of Florida in the United States.  Irma had the dubious distinction of being the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade.


    As a Category 5 hurricane, Irma slammed into the island of Barbuda - part of the two-island state of Antigua-Barbuda -- with maximum sustained  winds of 185 miles per hour.  But the massive storm's wide expanse of external bands hit neighboring islands such as St. Martin and St Barthelemy in the Netherland and French Antilles, Anguilla in the British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States territoris of the Virgin Islands and   Puerto Rico with destructive force.  The storm's path continued on across the northern coasts of Cuba, across portions of the Bahamas, and then sweeping over the Florida Keys  with maximaum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, before covering the rest of the state with dangerous floods and winds.   In Naples, wind gusts of more than 140 miles per hour were recorded. 


    In the Caribbean, dozens of people were killed but no place suffered worse destruction than Barbuda.  According to Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda said Irma had wreaked “absolute devastation” on Barbuda, which was now “barely habitable” with 95 percent of the island's infrastructure  completely destroyed. Up to 90 percent of St. Martin's infrastructure had also been utterly decimated, essentially destroying the French/Dutch territory's tourism industry.  Cuba's north coast, which was home to much of its burgeooning tourism industry,  had now suffered a massive setback in the already-struggling Communist country. Particularly hard-hit   Havana, Matanzas, Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila. Ten people were confirmed to have been killed in Cuba alone with authorities noting they had not evacuated to shelters, as instructed to do so.  Across the Leeward Caribbean, island nations and territories were being faced with dozens of deaths widespread damage and destruction to infrastructire, as well as a  humanitarian crisis. 


    In the Keys, landmark businessed were reduced to rubble. On Marco Island where Irma made landfall, along with nearby Naples, stood as the embodiment of havoc.  Drone footage indicated rows of shattered homes there.   Miami and Jacksonville were flooded, while the area around Tampa was battered.  Even Orlando, where many Floridians had sought refuge, did not escape the massive storm's wrath.  Indeed, as many as six millions of Floridians across the state were without power, with authorities predicting that it would be weeks before electricity would be restored.  There were also a number of car collisiion deaths linked with the storm.  The death toll would very likely increase once recovery efforts were underway.  Although millions of people across the region were ordered to evacuate and seek shelter before Irma arrived, many did not heed that advice.  The known death toll at the time of writing aside it was to be seen if they survived the monster storm's impact.


    Florida Governor Rick Scott warned that it would be "some time" before people could return to their homes or a state of normalcy.  He added, "Power lines are down throughout the state. We've got roads that are impassable, so everybody's got to be patient as we work through this."  Rescue and recovery efforts to the Keys and barrier islands would likely be difficult because there was no guarantee that connecting bridges had withstood the power of lashing winds and rain. 


    President Donald Trump signed an emergency order releasing  federal aid for Florida.  These funds would be vital to help victims repair damage and  recover  from Irma' destructive force.  


    Prime Minister Theresa May of the United  Kingdom pledged 32 million in Britsh pounds for recovery assistance in the Caribbea.  The Dutch monarch King Willem-Alexander,  visited Netherlands Antilles affected by Irma, including the Dutch side of St Martin to show solidarity with the people. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte promised an intensified security presence in affected Dutch territories to 

    ensure order, and noted that security forces had been authorized to function with a “firm hand.”  French President Emmanuel Macron was criticized for the lateness of his response to St. Martin amd St. Barthelemy, but was also expected to make his way to the region to survey the damage and offer assistance for French Caribbean territories' recovery and rebuilding efforts.  


    Independent Caribbean island nations such as Cuba and Antigua-Barbuda would have a more difficult time on their limited resources to recover from Irma's wrath.  In Barbuda more than 1,300 Barbudans were in shelters in Antigua with no suggestion of when they might return home. Assistance was coming from regional neighbors such as Jamaica, St Lucia, and Trinidad and promised assistance while a team from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) was  on the ground in Barbuda carrying out an aassessment.  A Go Fund Me fund had been established to try to rescue animals left to roam free in Barbuda in the aftermath of the storm. 



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