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Hurricane Irma tears through Caribbean, approaches Florida

Hurricane Irma is continuing to tear through the Caribbean islands as it makes its way towards Florida.

The Category 5 storm has left a trail of destruction through the islands of Barbuda, St Martin and Anguilla and is about to hit Turks and Caicos.

Category 5 is the highest level assigned to storms, and Irma has wind speeds of up to 290 kilometres an hour.

At least 10 people have died so far in the Caribbean.

Barbuda suffered a major hit, with 90 per cent of its buildings damaged and over half the population now homeless. Buildings in St. Martins were mostly destroyed too.

According to the storm’s current path, it will also hit Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba before slamming Florida.

Haiti is thought to be particularly vulnerable. It is poorest country in the region and is still very much recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

USA Today reports that Irma has already broken several records in the region including highest sustained wind speed, lowest barometric pressure and most accumulated cyclone energy.

With Florida expected to suffer a direct hit, U.S. residents are being warned to evacuate and brace themselves for the storm.

It is predicted that the storm will be reduced to a Category 4 by the time it hits Florida but there are major concerns it will destroy the southeast coast.

News Corp reports that half a million people have been ordered to leave Florida, fearing that Irma could be the mythological “Big One” locals have been dreading.

Irma is set to be the biggest storm to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which did serious damage to Miami. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma killed 87 people and did an estimated $29.4 billion damage to the region.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is warning Floridians about life threatening wind speeds, storm surge, potential flooding and urging them to prepare for the coming storm.

U.S. President Donald Trump has praised FEMA and warned people to “be careful and be safe.” Reuters reports that several of Trump’s luxury properties are in the storm’s path and that it may hit Mar-a-Lago, which has been called the “winter White House.”

The UK Government has announced it will send £12 million (AUD $19.5 million) in aid to help the Caribbean islands affected.

The Australian Government is warning Australians in the region to monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local authorities. It is also recommending that travellers contact their airline or tour operator to see if tourist services have been affected.

If you want to help (regardless of where you are), organisations such as Red Cross, UNICEF, and Oxfam are already taking donations for damage caused by Irma.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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