Much of Barbuda, an idyllic island in the Caribbean, has turned to rubble after coming face-to-face with Hurricane Irma.
Over 1,500 people live on Barbuda, a small and relatively flat island that’s part of Antigua and Barbuda in the Eastern Caribbean. Following the chaos of Irma, little of it remains as it once stood. Prime Minister Gaston Browne flew over the island after much of the destruction took place, estimating that 95 percent of the buildings were damaged and a considerable number of properties were totally obliterated.
“What I saw was heart-wrenching, absolutely devastating. The extent of the destruction is unprecedented,” Prime Minister Browne told local news station ABS Television. “Barbuda right now is literally rubble.... In fact, I’m of the view that, as it stands now, Barbuda is barely habitable."
Now, their government is faced with the decision of whether to evacuate the island's population, due to forecasts of the Atlantic's Hurricane Jose expected to hit the island in the coming days.
“You’d recognize too that the island is now literally underwater and that in itself represents a serious threat in terms of mosquito-borne diseases,” Browne added.
Irma now ranks as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever. The Category 5 storm, the highest possible level, hit the island of Barbuda early on Wednesday with sustained winds of over 297 kilometers (185 miles) per hour. About 60 percent of its residents have since been left homeless and at least one person from the island – a two-year-old child – has died, he told the Associated Press.
"What we experienced is like something you see in a horror movie," a local resident also told ABS. "Persons were running from house to house, and we had cars flying over our heads. We had 40-foot [12 meters] containers flying left and right."
At the present time, at least 10 people have been killed in the Caribbean in the wake of the storm.
Antigua and Barbuda was one of the first nations to be hit by Hurricane Irma. Puerto Rico, St Kitts, St Nevis, St Martin, and St Barts have also felt the force of the storm already. It is currently north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and expected to strike Turks and Caicos and the southern Bahamas by Thursday evening.
In the meantime, Florida nervously tracks the storm's path with potentially catastrophic winds likely to hit the Keys by Saturday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
You can track the progress of Hurricane Irma on the NOAA’s National Hurricane Center online map.