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Irma leaves wake of devastation after hitting Turks and Caicos Islands

By
Ed Adamczyk
A young man walks along the beach covered with debris carried by strong winds in Cap Haitian, Haiti, on Thursday. Photo by Jean Marc Herve Abelard/EPA
A young man walks along the beach covered with debris carried by strong winds in Cap Haitian, Haiti, on Thursday. Photo by Jean Marc Herve Abelard/EPA

Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Hurricane Irma left a wake of devastation in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean late Thursday and early Friday, as it continues its march toward the U.S. mainland.

Most residents of the islands, a British territory, stayed in place though the storm. Widespread damage, largely in the form of roofs coming off buildings, was reported.

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"Fifteen roofs have come off, and there's damage to part of the roof of the hospital," Gov. John Freeman told CNN. He noted "quite a bit of damage" in the capital island of Grand Turk.

The territory is home to about 35,000 people. Officials advised them to stay put as the storm passed.

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The hurricane struck land as a Category 5 storm on Wednesday in Barbuda, and then passed through St. Martin and Anguilla. Damage was limited in Puerto Rico, although much of the population of 3.4 million lost electrical power and at least 56,000 were without water.

Four people died on St. Martin, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands, one on Anguilla and one on Barbuda, officials said -- putting the total at 10 so far.

The Red Cross estimated that 1.2 million people in the eastern islands have been affected by the storm, and 26 million more, in Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, could be exposed to winds and rainfall. The hurricane is expected to reach the U.S. mainland by Saturday.

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The Bahamas ordered evacuations on its six southernmost islands, reducing the casualty count. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called it "the largest such evacuation in the history of the country' of 390,000 people.

Barbuda, an island which forms the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, was the first island hit by the hurricane, and lost about 95 percent of its buildings, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Thursday. About 50 people were injured on St. Martin, where the Dutch portion of the island saw significant looting after the hurricane passed, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's office reported.

Bluebeard's Castle, a popular resort on the island of St. Thomas, was significantly damaged, CNN reported Friday.

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Communication to the many of the islands was lost in the storm, and damage assessments are slow.

"We can't yet assess the full extent of damage, but we expect that the Red Cross will be delivering extensive support to many thousands over the coming weeks and months," commented Walter Cotte, Red Cross regional director.

The Caribbean's eastern islands are also in the projected line of travel of Category 3Hurricane Jose, which is currently moving westward.

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