Major damage reported as "apocalyptic" Hurricane Irma hits Caribbean

The storm has already cause 'enormous damage' on Barbuda, St Martin and the British Virgin Islands

Major damage reported as "apocalyptic" Hurricane Irma hits Caribbean

High winds and rain sweep through the streets of the Matelnillo community during the passage of hurricane Irma, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Picture by: Carlos Giusti/AP/Press Association Images

Updated: 21.30

Hundreds of thousands of people are being evacuated from their homes in the Caribbean and the US as Hurricane Irma continues to sweep its way towards Florida.

The killer storm has already caused devastating damage to Barbuda, St Martin and the British Virgin Islands, and at least ten people are reported to have died.

It is due to make landfall on the islands of Turks and Caicos - home to more than 30,000 people.

"Enormous damage" has been caused by Hurricane Irma on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of St Martin, the Dutch Royal Navy has said.

Many houses are missing roofs and hotels are under water, it added.

France's interior minister Gerard Collomb said four bodies had been recovered on St Martin, revising down an earlier death toll.

St Martin and Anguilla experienced heavy rain and winds of up to 185mph (almost 300km/h), while damage in St Barts was described as "apocalyptic".

As many as 49 million people could be affected by Hurricane Irma, the United Nations has warned.

The category five hurricane is ripping its way through the Caribbean on a path towards the southern US state of Florida.

A two-year-old was also killed in Barbuda as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne described the situation on Barbuda as "total carnage" and "barely habitable", with about half its 1,800 residents left homeless.

Nine in 10 of the island's buildings have been damaged - some of them completely destroyed.

Mr Browne told the BBC it was "easily one of the most emotionally painful experiences that I have had".

He will be seeking financial help from the international community to help rebuild Barbuda.

Irma was over Puerto Rico on Thursday morning where 100mph winds left more than 900,000 people without power and nearly 50,000 without water.

Puerto Rico's economic crisis has resulted in major funding and staffing cuts to the public power company and, consequently, the power supply may not be restored for up to six months.

The UN's ReliefWeb service increased the number of people in the projected path of Irma from 37 million to 49 million on Thursday morning.

The most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded is moving on a course toward the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas, before being expected in the US state Florida by Sunday.

A massive operation is under way to evacuate coastal areas.

Irma will likely remain at category four or five for at least the next day or two, according to the National Hurricane Centre.

Meanwhile two other hurricanes are in the same region - the first time this has happened since September 2010.

Katia formed in the Gulf of Mexico with winds of 75mph and is expected to drift towards the coast of Mexico on Thursday, prompting the government to issue a hurricane watch for the coast of Veracruz state.

Hurricane Jose is further east than Irma and, while meteorologists said it was not an immediate threat, it is strengthening and its path could change.

Source: NOAA

In Florida, people in low-lying areas of highly populated Miami-Dade County were urged to move to higher ground in preparation for the storm.

Roads were packed with vehicles and there were petrol shortages, prompting governor Rick Scott to tell people to only "take what they need".

Mr Scott has described the storm as "life-threatening", telling people to follow evacuation orders because "you can rebuild your home - you cannot rebuild your life".

Flights from Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida will be suspended from Friday evening local time:

There are fears that dozens of cranes being used on construction sites may topple over, as they are built to withstand winds of up to 145mph but not the force of winds expected from category five Irma.

US President Donald Trump, whose Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago resort could be affected by the storm, said his administration is monitoring Irma closely.