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Hurricane Irma hits Florida after causing mass destruction and deaths in the Caribbean

Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm in recorded history, is currently moving up the west coast of Florida. Irma has caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage across the Caribbean, taking at least 28 lives, and is now heading further into Florida after causing dangerous flooding in Miami.

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), at 6am GMT the centre of the hurricane was approximately 25 miles north-east of Tampa, an area with over three million inhabitants that has not seen a hurricane since 1921. The state already has over 3.4 million homes without power and reports of three storm-related deaths.

At least 28 people have died, and more reported missing, following Irma’s path of destruction in the Caribbean. French officials announced that nine people have died and seven are currently missing in the French territories of St Martin, while there have been four confirmed deaths in Dutch Saint Maarten. Five are reported as dead in the British Virgin Islands, four in the US Virgin Islands, and at least three confirmed deaths in Puerto Rico. Barbuda and Anguilla have both confirmed one storm-related death. Cuba announced 10 storm-related deaths earlier today.

Many homes, businesses and yachts in the Caribbean have been completely destroyed by the Hurricane. According to French officials, 60% of the homes on St Martin are now uninhabitable. Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Cuba have all reported widespread damage, with Cuba’s capital Havana currently without power. Barbuda has been described as “barely habitable” with 95% of the building damaged. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne estimates reconstruction will cost the Island $100m (£80m).

In Puerto Rico, more than 6,000 residents of the US territory are in shelters and many more without power. Haiti and the Dominican Republic breathed a sigh of relief as, although still experiencing significant damage, the nations experienced much less damage than initially predicted.

Several yachts have been reported as destroyed, with pictures on social media showing the 40m Mondomarine M/Y Sierra Romeo, the Westport 112 yacht M/Y Pipe Dreams and an as-yet unidentified Benetti Delfino 93 completely wrecked. A crewmember from M/Y Pipe Dreams shared an image of the damaged yacht (above) and confirmed that all the crew are safe.

Sir Richard Branson’s yacht Necker Belle was at his private island as the storm hit. In a blog post, Sir Branson wrote that he and the crew on board took shelter in a reinforced concrete cellar located in his private island home. He has since shared photos of the scene on Necker Island, showing extensive damage, and has also shared news that, while he is currently sheltering in Puerto Rico, he will be returning to the British Virgin Islands to help with aid efforts.

Since hitting Florida, the storm has been downgraded from a category three down to a category one, but is still causing mass flooding and damage to infrastructure. The NHC expects that Irma will weaken further still as it moves towards southern Georgia.

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