Caribbean residents reeling from Irma face second storm threat
Relief efforts are under way on islands devastated by Hurricane Irma, as a second “extremely dangerous” storm threatens the Caribbean.
Some already-ravaged areas are preparing for further possible damage as Hurricane Jose, which has been upgraded to category four, travels through the Atlantic.
Medical supplies and other aid are being flown from the UK to the areas worst affected by Irma, following a £32 million pledge from the British government.
The government of the Turks and Caicos Islands, which were “pummelled” overnight, declared a national shutdown as the hurricane continued its destructive path towards America.
The death toll from Irma has risen to 20 with four more people believed to have died on the British Virgin Islands.
US president Donald Trump warned Americans in Irma’s path to “get out of its way”.
He tweeted: “Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen. Be safe and get out of its way, if possible.”
The National Hurricane Centre said the storm is likely to move near the north coast of Cuba and central Bahamas today, and approach Florida by tomorrow.
Life-threatening wind, rain and a storm surge are expected in the Turks and Caicos Islands today.
Forecasters said Hurricane Jose could affect already-hit areas with the British Virgin Islands on tropical storm watch, and the Commonwealth islands of Barbuda and Antigua and British territory of Anguilla on hurricane watch.
The British Virgin Islands, which saw houses reduced to their foundations and many roads impassable in the wake of Irma, has already declared a state of emergency.
Images posted on social media showed entire structures razed, with debris scattered across the streets.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said aircraft carrying around 230 personnel, made up of engineers, marines and medical specialists, will take rations and medical supplies to places affected including Barbados and the British Virgin Islands.
Officials said it has been difficult to gauge the extent of the damage due to communication lines coming down, but the Department for International Development has sent advisers to Antigua, Barbados and Jamaica to assess the wreckage. A spokeswoman for the department said people are being evacuated from Barbuda to Antigua in advance of Hurricane Jose hitting.
There has been criticism of the UK government’s response to Irma, the most powerful hurricane ever to hit the Atlantic, with some saying more should have been done to prepare for the devastation.
Labour MP Virendra Sharma, who sits on the international development committee, said there had been a “lack of vision and lack of proper response”, despite indications the hurricane was coming.
Theresa May’s spokeswoman dismissed criticism that the UK lagged behind France and the Netherlands in taking care of its territories in the path of the hurricane.
The spokeswoman told a Westminster briefing: “We believe our response was swift. We had a ship pre-positioned. We are getting lifesaving aid now to those who need it.”
The spokeswoman, who said the UK government was waiting for “a full picture of intelligence to come through”, added: “Three flights departed this morning carrying marines and engineers as part of the MoD task force.”
RFA Mounts Bay has helped to restore power and communications as well as clear the airport runway in Anguilla, and will next provide relief in the British Virgin Islands. Other aid being sent includes 10,000 buckets and 5,000 solar lanterns.