MARIGOT: Monster Hurricane Irma slammed into the French Caribbean islands on Wednesday after making landfall in Barbuda, packing ferocious winds and causing major flooding in low-lying areas, reports AFP.
As the rare Category Five storm barreled its way across the Caribbean, it brought gusting winds of up to 185 miles per hour (294 kilometers per hour), weather experts said.
After making landfall just before 0600 GMT in Barbuda, part of the twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, the hurricane swept on to French-run Saint Barthelemy, also known as St Barts, and Saint Martin, an island divided between France and the Netherlands.
The French weather office said Irma was “a historic hurricane (with) an unprecedented intensity over the Atlantic,” with a French minister saying it had already “caused major damage” across its two island territories.
Coastal areas were being “battered extremely violently” by the sea, with the weather office logging winds of 244 kph (151 mph) before its monitoring equipment was destroyed by the hurricane.
With the islands on maximum alert ahead of the arrival of the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, France had raised the alarm over the fate of some 7,000 people who refused to seek shelter.