Hurricane Irma has caused widespread destruction across the Caribbean, reducing buildings to rubble and leaving at least 10 people dead.
The small island of Barbuda is said to be “barely habitable”. Officials warn that Saint Martin is almost destroyed, and the death toll is likely to rise.
Irma is a category five hurricane, the highest possible level.It is currently north-east of the Dominican Republic, heading towards Turks and Caicos. The most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, it has sustained wind speeds of 285km/h (180mph).
Hurricane Irma first struck the dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. At least one death, of a child, was reported on Barbuda, where Prime Minister Gaston Browne said about 95% of the buildings had suffered some damage.
“It’s absolute devastation,” he said after flying over the island, home to some 1,600 people. “The island is literally under water. In fact, I’m of the view that, as it stands now, Barbuda is barely habitable.”
He told the BBC that 50% of the Barbuda population were now homeless and that it would cost $100m (£80m) to rebuild the island.
However, Antigua, with a population of 80,000, escaped major damage, with no loss of life, he said earlier.
Saint Martin, an island that comprises two countries, the French territory of Saint-Martin and the Dutch section Sint-Maarten, suffered terrible damage.
Officials have confirmed at least eight deaths in Saint-Martin and Saint Barthélemy, popularly known as St Barts.”It’s an enormous catastrophe – 95% of the island is destroyed,” top local official Daniel Gibbs said of Saint Martin.
Sint-Maarten’s airport, the third largest in the Caribbean, has been destroyed.
The Dutch defence ministry said: “The picture is of many uprooted trees, houses without roofs and pleasure boats on land.”
The Dutch navy has sent two ships from nearby Aruba and Curacao to assist locals but they have had trouble docking, according to media in the Netherlands.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “The island is not reachable at this point because of the huge damage to the airport and the harbour.”
In Puerto Rico, more than half of the island’s three million residents were without power amid heavy downpours and strong winds. Officials there have said that power could be cut off for several days.
British overseas territories Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands was also caught in the extreme weather. At least one death has been reported on Anguilla, a local official confirmed.
One Anguilla resident told the BBC the island looked as if it had been struck by a nuclear bomb, with roofs torn off many of the main buildings, including the hospital.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Facebook that he had spoken with its chief minister.
“My thoughts are with all those affected and the UK is taking swift action to respond. We have staff and a British naval ship ready to help those in need,” he said.