The Caribbean island of Barbuda is “practically uninhabitable” after it was steamrolled by Category 5 Hurricane Irma, officials there said as the superstorm’s confirmed death toll climbed to three Wednesday.
Irma ripped into the Caribbean island of Barbuda around 2 a.m this morning destroying 90 percent of its structures and vehicles, according to Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
He said roads and telecommunications systems were destroyed and recovery will take months, if not years.
“As it stands, Barbuda is practically uninhabitable,” Browne told Antigua/Barbuda Broadcasting Services, adding that destruction on the island home to nearly 1,700 people was “heart-wrenching.”
“I never contemplated any possibility that you could have such a contrast,” he said of the relative destruction.
“A significant number of the houses have been totally destroyed,” his chief of staff Lionel Hurst said.
Browne said he would order both islands evacuated should Hurricane Jose, which is brewing out in the Atlantic, head their way.
The Barbuda weather station held together long enough to record gusts over 150 mph. The actual peak gust would likely have been higher than that.
Barbuda, an island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, is relatively flat, with its highest point at just 125 feet above sea level. About 1,600 people live on the island, according to the 2011 Census.
A spokesperson for Antigua and Barbuda’s National Office of Disaster Services said that a complete assessment still needs to happen, but said Browne reported that Irma had wreaked “widespread damage” to the island.
Hurricane Irma has sustained winds of 185 mph and even stronger gusts. It is forecast to hit Florida overnight Saturday into Sunday. The hurricane is approximately 450 miles wide, whereas Barbuda is just under 62 miles wide.