Irma Leaves Caribbean Island ‘Barely Habitable’

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Hurricane Irma has devastated the Caribbean nation of Anitgua and Barbuda and reduced one of its islands to “literally rubble,” the country’s leaders confirmed Thursday.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne had originally announced Wednesday that Antigua and Barbuda’s “main infrastructure has stood up” and that residents could “resume normal life within hours.”

That statement turned out to be nearly the opposite of what actually transpired when Irma passed over the islands.

While Antigua was spared the worst of the storm, the sister island of Barbuda, home to about 1,600 people, was almost completely destroyed. Brown said 95 percent of all structures on the island were damaged or destroyed, leaving the island “barely habitable.”

“What I saw was heart-wrenching — I mean, absolutely devastating,” he told ABS TV/Radio Antigua, according to the New York Times.

Browne confirmed that 60 percent of the Barbuda’s residents were left homeless after Irma passed over the island as a Category 5 storm. The prime minister called Irma’s sustained 180mph winds “unprecedented” for Antigua and Barbuda.

As daylight emerged in Irma’s wake, photos of Barbuda began to circulate on Twitter. The images depict scenes of total devastation:

Despite Irma’s fury, early casualty reports were relatively light. A two-year-old child was killed as a family tried to flee a damaged home during the storm, the only fatality confirmed so far, according to Browne.

By Thursday morning, Irma had reached Puerto Rico and was threatening toward the Virgin Islands, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

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