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Death Toll From Hurricane Irma Climbs in Caribbean as Jose Approaches

U.S. authorities were trying to get some 6,000 Americans off of St. Martin Friday morning as Hurricane Jose approached.

(TNS) - First, the Caribbean islands were pummeled by Hurricane Irma, which killed at least 11 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

Now, the islands could get hit again — this time by Hurricane Jose, a powerful Category 4 storm that was about 400 miles away from the Northern Leeward Islands on Friday morning.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, all islands that have already been badly hit by Irma.

U.S. authorities were trying to get some 6,000 Americans off of St. Martin Friday morning as Hurricane Jose approached, the AP reported. Other islands also rushed to evacuate residents. Some 300 people had been evacuated from Barbuda by Thursday night, according to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

Meanwhile, the islands tried to take stock of the damage that had already occurred.

At least four people were killed and 50 injured on the French side of St. Martin, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said Thursday, and more casualties could be reported in the coming days as French officials inspect French Caribbean territories.

One person was killed on the Dutch side of St. Martin, another person died in Anguilla, and a 2-year-old child perished in Barbuda, where the prime minister said nearly all of the homes on the island had been damaged, leaving some 60 percent of residents homeless, the Associated Press reported.

The death toll continued to climb in the U.S. Virgin Islands Friday morning, with at least four people reported dead. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett described “devastation” on the islands. St. Thomas and St. John were completely without power and St. Thomas no longer had a working 911 system, Plaskett said Thursday afternoon.

Although the islands were prepared for a hurricane, with buildings built to withstand serious storms, Plaskett said the islands’ infrastructure proved no match for Irma’s powerful winds. “There wasn’t much that could be done,” she said.

The hurricane passed by Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Thursday before churning on toward the Turks and Caicos, where it pummeled the islands early Friday.

Irma downed power lines and ripped off roofs in Grand Turk, the capital of the British overseas territory. Communication went down in the Turks and Caicos as the storm hit and it was still unclear Friday morning how much damage had occurred. There were reports of roofs getting ripped off and widespread blackouts and flooding.

In Haiti, flooding was reported in the country’s northwest region and a major national road connecting Cap-Haitien to Ouanaminthe was rendered impassible after a river washed over it, the country’s Office of Civil Protection reported. Homes were damaged, but there were no reports of deaths as of Friday morning.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic reported some power outages and fallen trees blocking roads, but by Friday morning the ports had resumed operations. Officials said the country’s hospitals had not been damaged by the storm. An old bridge connecting the Dominican Republic and Haiti collapsed when the Massacre River swelled, Diario Libre reported.

Puerto Rico struggled to restore power Friday morning, after 900,000 were left with no electricity when Irma passed overnight Wednesday. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló tweeted that power had been restored to a major medical center and two airports, including Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport near capital city San Juan.

The eye of Hurricane Irma is expected to continue moving near the north coast of Cuba and the central Bahamas Friday and Saturday. The Cuban government moved tens of thousands of people away from the northern coastline on Friday.

Two U.S. Navy ships were expected to arrive on the Virgin Islands Friday, and French, British and Dutch rescuers also sent rescuers to their territories. Venezuela sent a military plane carrying emergency relief supplies and rescue workers to Antigua, according to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.


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