We don’t have a lot of information yet on the situation in the Turks & Caicos (UPDATED, September 10: Now we do, click here for a more substantial update), because as with the other Caribbean islands, their communications are mostly down due to the sheer damage Irma inflicted. However, some initial reports are starting to trickle in with the storm mostly past the islands now, and the news isn’t good:
Hurricane Irma has pummelled the Turks and Caicos Islands after leaving a trail of destruction across the Caribbean, killing at least 14 people.
Howling winds and rough seas battered the British overseas territory, experiencing a top-rated category five hurricane for the first time.
Some 500,000 people were told to leave south Florida with Irma due on Sunday.
The hurricane has been downgraded to a category four, but officials warn that it remains “extremely dangerous”.
The US National Weather Service says that Irma was expected to bring wind speeds of around 165mph (270km/h) over the weekend.
Irma has passed through Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands and is projected to move towards Cuba and the Bahamas.
We don’t have any word yet on what’s happening in the Bahamas and Cuba. That will probably take a few days to come out, especially with Florida about to get smashed. US and international media just aren’t going to pay much attention to the islands when a hurricane is smashing its way through Florida.
Some more news has come out about the condition of the Virgin Islands, which as you might expect, is quite bad. St. John appears to have been flattened entirely like Anguilla, St. Martin, and Barbuda were, and St. Thomas has also taken severe damage:
There has been extensive damage on St. Thomas and the V.I. Government has “lost very valuable assets,” including two fire stations, two police stations and “the roof of Government House I am told was devastated or blown off,” Mapp said.
Schneider Regional Medical Center has been severely damaged and evacuated. In a statement earlier Thursday, Mapp said the hospital’s cancer unit’s walls are damaged, the windows blown in and the roof gone, while the “membrane of the entire roof” of the hospital is gone.
Patients are being evacuated. Of 37 patients admitted, 11 are already at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix and another 26 are being prepared to leave. There are medical personnel at the airport “to triage them” and then at 6:30 p.m. they were to fly to Puerto Rico for treatment in facilities there, “so we are emptying Schneider Hospital at this very moment,” Mapp said.
Asked whether there is any information on St. John, which has been largely cut off from communication and transportation since the storm, said he knew “only that they seem to have seen much more destruction than St. Thomas,” and that the Julius Sprauve School, which was a storm shelter, had “lost part of its roof. And that is a concrete building.”
The Virgin Islands representative to Congress, Stacey Plaskett, has begun lobbying the government to send the Virgin Islands a massive aid package.
Update (3:00 p.m. EST):
News coming out of the Turks & Caicos is still sparse, as local papers such as the TCI Sun haven’t updated their internet sites, presumably due to power outages. I found this tweet with a short video of the storm in the Turks & Caicos. As you can see, the islands seem to have been hit pretty hard:
The current scene in #TurksandCaicosIslands from #HurricaneIrma #caribbean #huracanirma #tci #florida #irma https://t.co/YHKzhIXP1J
Additionally, it was speculated earlier in the week that conditions in Barbuda were so bad that the citizenry would need to be evacuated. With Hurricane Jose coming, the Antiguan government isn’t taking chances and Prime Minister Gaston Browne has indeed ordered a mandatory evacuation:
With most of the houses on Barbuda destroyed and the island described as “barely habitable” in its current state, residents of Antigua’s sister isle are being forced to move.
Government today ordered a mandatory evacuation and put provisions in place for people to be transported from Barbuda to Antigua to ride out Hurricane Jose which is now a Category 4 system that is expected to make impact in the northern Leeward Islands as early as tomorrow.
Attorney General and Minister of Public Security Steadroy Benjamin said housing will be provided for all.
However, he warned that “anyone who fails to comply with this [evacuation] order will be in breach of law and will be subject to be met with the fullest extent of the law”.
There’s also this scary video from Long Island, Bahamas which suggests a catastrophic storm surge is coming:
I am in disbelief right now… This is Long Island, Bahamas and the ocean water is missing!!! That’s as far as they see #HurricaneIrma wtf https://t.co/AhPAonjO6s