BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Sept 6, CMC – Hurricane Irma was pounding the tiny Caribbean island of Anguilla as the eye of the potentially catastrophic Category 5 storm passes over St. Martin on Wednesday.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) in its latest bulletin, said that the hurricane was 15 miles west south west of Anguilla and the same distance west of St. Martin.
The hurricane, which has maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (mph), is moving toward the
west-northwest near 16 mph “and this general motion is expected to continue for the next couple of days. “On the forecast track, the extremely dangerous core of Irma will move over portions of the northern Virgin Islands today, pass near or just north of Puerto Rico this afternoon or tonight, and pass near or just north of the coast of the Dominican Republic Thursday.”
It said that maximum sustained winds remain near 185 mph with higher gusts.
“Irma is a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful Category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days.”
The hurricane spared the island of Antigua and Barbuda much damage as it passed over on Tuesday night even as it knocked out communication between the two islands after ripping of the roof of the island's lone police station.
In a statement, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said his first words “must be of thanks.
“Thanks to Almighty God in all his forms for standing at our side at a time of great adversity. There is no doubt that the Good Lord is on our side. We in Antigua have weathered the most powerful hurricane ever to storm its way through the Caribbean. And we have done so with stunning results.”
He said the forecast was that Antigua would be “devastated, our infrastructure demolished, people killed and our economy destroyed. In the light of day, the picture is very different.”
He said in Antigua, no life has been lost.
“The guests in our hotels are all well. Even our animals were protected from this massive storm.
Our airport will be open for flights into and out of Antigua by 2.00 pm (local time) today. The people of Antigua should all be very proud of the part that each of them played in our impressive story of readiness and resilience.”
He said he was glad people had heeded the early warnings and to treat Hurricane Irma with absolute seriousness.
He said the members of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force have been on the streets clearing fallen trees and debris.
“Ours has been an exceptional story of resilience, honed by past experience and by the high level of our preparedness to confront the challenges of the world's mightiest and most dangerous hurricane.
With regard to Barbuda, preliminary reports indicate damage to rooves and to some buildings, but I have had no report of any fatalities.”
Browne said that Barbuda too benefitted from a high level of readiness, responsive to the urgings of the government and from the preparations that were made in advance, including the shelter constructed for that purpose.
“I intend to visit Barbuda at the earliest opportunity to see conditions on the island for myself,” Browne said, adding he remains confident that the damages in Antigua were minimal and that the regular operations could resume in short order.
“I see us recovering within 24 hours and (then) it's business as usual,” Browne said.
Meanwhile, as Bahamians prepare for the arrival of the storm this weekend, several schools have been closed and the national airline, Bahamasair, said it was adjusting its regular domestic schedule to assist the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) with evacuations from Islands in the Southern Bahamas.
The authorities have also announced that the given the experiences learnt from the passage of Hurricane Matthew last year, a meeting will be held later on Wednesday to decide on the operations of the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA).
“We do not anticipate a cessation in airport operations until Friday evening, with a potential resumption in business Saturday evening, depending on the aftermath of the storm,” they said, adding that the hurricane response plan has been activated.
The Bahamas government has also reiterated an earlier warning to retailers and other businesses that
It “is illegal, unethical and immoral for businesses …to artificially increase the price of goods and services offered for sale or hire in an attempt to secure abnormal profits in anticipation or in the aftermath of a national disaster, in this instance, Hurricane Irma.”
Labour Minister Dion A. Foulkes said the ministry has established a hotline service urging the general public to lodge any complaints related to artificial price increases.