Last updated: September 8, 2017 at 16:30 pm
Destruction from Hurricane Irma has continued as it ripped though low-lying Caribbean islands, bringing the total dead to at least 19.
The storm had been downgraded from the maximum category five by this morning but is still a powerful category four hurricane as it rumbles towards the United States.
Thousands of residents in Florida have been told to flee their homes. One senior official said Irma will be “devastating” for the USA.
The Turks and Caicos Islands, experiencing a highest graded hurricane for the first time, were battered by winds of over 160mph (257kmph) and high waves. Communication with the British overseas territory was cut when it was slammed by the storm, although the situation is becoming clearer.
Further pain could come as storm surges affect the coast and inland areas are drenched with rain.
Cuba and The Bahamas are next in Irma’s path. The Reuters news agency is reporting that many Cuban resorts have been left empty as tourists look to escape.
Over one million people have been affected by the hurricane, according to the Red Cross.
This number looks set to rise, with some estimates as high as 26 million.
The first nation hit by Irma was Antigua and Barbuda.
While Antigua was remarkably spared, The most powerful Atlantic storm for a decade damaged 90% of the buildings and vehicles in Barbuda
Yesterday sources on the ground told WIC News that they estimate between 50-60% of the 1,600 residents have been left homeless.
A two-year-old child was killed by the storm, and overnight authorities have been evacuating residents overnight.
“The island is literally under water. In fact, I’m of the view that, as it stands now, Barbuda is barely habitable,” said Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
Also blasted by Irma was St Martin, the island that comprises the French territory of Saint-Martin and the Dutch section Sint-Maarten.
Terrible damage can be seen across both portions, with five people confirmed dead.
Princess Juliana International Airport, on the Dutch Sint Maarten portion of the island, has been flattened, according to local residents.
The airport is famous around the world as planes fly directly over the head of a popular beach.
The Caribbean region is bracing itself for further destructive weather as Hurricane Jose is set to begin making landfalls this weekend.