Irma's destruction on U.S. Virgin Islands, other Caribbean islands

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Hurricane Irma left destruction in its wake on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. (U.S. Coast Guard)

Hurricane Irma destroyed the hospital, toppled power lines and towers, heavily damaged a water and sewage treatment plant, and left the harbor and hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses in ruins on the island of St. Thomas, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Laura Strickling, who moved to St. Thomas with her husband three years ago from Washington so he could take a job first as a law clerk and then with a law firm, huddled with him and their year-old daughter in a basement apartment along with another family as the storm raged.

"The noise was just deafening. It was so loud we thought the roof was gone. The windows were boarded up, so it was hot and we had no AC, no power," she said. She said she and the three other adults "were terrified but keeping it together for the babies.

Strickland, an opera singer used to visit her husband in Afghanistan when he worked there, added: "I've had to sit through a Taliban gunfight, and this was scarier."

When they emerged they found their apartment on the top floor was unscathed.

"There are no leaves. It is crazy," she said. "One of the things we loved about St. Thomas is that it was so green. And it's gone."

Thousands of tourists were trapped on St. Martin, St. Barts, and the Virgin Islands in the path of Jose, which threatened to strike as early as Saturday. Authorities rushed to evacuate as many people as possible from Barbuda ahead of the new storm.

A look at the impact of Hurricane Irma on individual countries and territories Friday as it tears across the Caribbean:


Four deaths were reported in the U.S. Virgin Islands and officials on St. Thomas said they expected to find more bodies as crews struggled to reopen roads and restore power. The hospital on St. Thomas was destroyed and dozens of patients were being evacuated to St. Croix and Puerto Rico by the U.S. Coast Guard. The harbor was in ruins, along with hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses.



About a million people were without power in Puerto Rico, which was spared a direct hit as Irma passed to the north. Nearly half the territory's hospitals were relying on generators. No injuries were reported.



One death was reported in the British territory of Anguilla, which suffered widespread damage to its electricity infrastructure, water supply, and government buildings among other structures. The United Kingdom said Irma inflicted "severe and in places critical" damage to the territory. By late Thursday, the airport runway had been cleared of debris as a crew from a British military ship assisted with the recovery.


In Barbuda, where 90 percent of the buildings were severely damaged by Hurricane Irma, the government was encouraging residents to evacuate to the sister island of Antigua ahead of Hurricane Jose. About 60 percent of the roughly 1,400 people on the small, flat island were left homeless by Irma. A 2-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm.



Four deaths were reported in the British territory, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. The storm caused major damage to the largest and most populated island of Tortola, where video of the hillside capital, Road Town, showed the scattered wreckage of buildings and piles of debris. The emergency agency said there was a critical need for security due to instances of looting. Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, who rode out the storm at his home on private Necker island, said entire houses disappeared and the area was "completely and utterly devastated."



Thousands of tourists were evacuated from low-lying keys off the coast dotted with all-inclusive resorts ahead of the storm's approach. All residents of the area were under mandatory evacuation orders from the Cuban government, which was moving tens of thousands of people from vulnerable coastline.



Irma ripped off roofs and knocked out electricity to the French island of St. Barts. Video footage of the storm's aftermath showed cars and boats strewn about the island. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said most of the schools were destroyed on St. Barts and St. Martin and "we'll need to rebuild both islands."



Homes were splintered, schools were destroyed and at least five people died on St. Martin, an island split between the Dutch Sint Maarten and French St. Martin. The cafes and clothing shops of the French seaside village of Marigot were submerged in brown floodwaters. There were reports of looting of televisions as well as food and water. Sint Maarten Prime Minister William Marlin said the government anticipates a serious housing shortage and is already fretting over a lost tourist season. "We foresee a loss of the tourist season because of the damage that was done to hotel properties, the negative publicity that one would have that it's better to go somewhere else because it's destroyed — so that will have a serious impact on our economy," he said in an interview with the Dutch military.



Communications went down as the hurricane battered the Turks and Caicos Islands early Friday and the extent of the damage was unclear. The British territory had urged coastal residents to move to higher ground, warning of waves as high as 20 feet (6 meters).