UPDATE: Hurricane Irma moving towards Virgin Islands
Hurricane Irma is moving towards the Virgin islands after pounding the British Overseas Territory Anguilla and St Martin as it makes its way through the Lesser Antilles.
The authorities in St Barthélemy and St Martin say several buildings have been destroyed and there’s a total electricity blackout.
They say in St Martin, government offices have been damaged and the island’s French Prefect and 23 staff are taking shelter in a concrete-lined room.
Police have also reported several roofs have blown off in the storm.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center says the Category 5 Hurricane is located 65 miles east south east of St Thomas and about 140 miles east of San Juan Puerto Rico.
It says Irma is moving toward the west-northwest near 16 miles per hour and this general motion is expected to continue for the next couple of days.
On the forecast track, Irma will move over portions of the Virgin Islands very soon, pass near or just north of Puerto Rico this afternoon or tonight, pass near or just north of the coast of the Dominican Republic Thursday, and be near the Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas late Thursday.
It says maximum sustained winds are near 185 miles per hour with higher gusts.
A Hurricane warning has been issued for the north coast of Haiti from the northern border with the Dominican Republic to Le Mole St Nicholas, while a Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for the coast of Haiti from south of Le Mole St Nicholas to Port-Au-Prince.
Warning and watches have been discontinued for several Caribbean countries including Guadeloupe, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said preliminary reports indicate damage is minimal with no reports fatalities.
In St Kitts-Nevis, the authorities said that the storm passed to the north of the Federation and while residents are still experiencing wind and rains, initial reports appear to indicate that the Federation has escaped the worst.