Hurricane Irma continued to sweep through the Caribbean with devastating force early Thursday, knocking out power to an estimated 1 million people in Puerto Rico. The storm didn't make landfall on the island, but the National Hurricane Center says it could still get up to 20 inches of rain, making flooding a serious danger, NBC News reports. Before the storm's arrival, authorities warned that the poor state of much of Puerto Rico's infrastructure meant that the storm could lead to some areas losing power for up to six months. Irma is expected to move north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti later Thursday and approach the Bahamas by evening. The latest:
- The storm dealt what Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne called "heart-wrenching" devastation to Barbuda, the smaller of the country's two islands, the New York Times reports. He said the island, home to around 1,600 people, is "literally rubble," with 95% of all structures damaged or destroyed. He said a 2-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home.
- French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Thursday that at least eight people were killed and 23 injured in the French territories of St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, though daybreak could reveal a far higher toll, the AP reports. "It's a tragedy, we'll need to rebuild both islands," he said. "Most of the schools have been destroyed."
- The British territory of Anguilla was also hit hard by the storm, the Guardian reports. "Anguilla is utterly devastated. We are very familiar with hurricanes, but this particular one, Hurricane Irma, was off the charts in terms of strength," says Josephine Gumbs-Connor, a lawyer from the territory who accuses the British government of doing little to help.
- The National Hurricane Center says the chances of a direct hit on Florida have increased. "South Florida and Central Florida will be impacted. We're confident with that right now," a center spokesman tells the Miami Herald. "What we're not confident with is exactly where that center is going to go. But remember a hurricane is not a dot on the map. They're large storms that cover a large area."
- In Florida, the Polk County Sheriff's Office warned sex offenders and people with arrest warrants against going to storm shelters, the Tampa Bay Times reports. "If you go to a shelter for #Irma and you have a warrant, we'll gladly escort you to the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail," the office tweeted.
- CNN reports that Florida is gearing up for what could become one of the largest mass evacuations in US history. The hurricane's cone could potentially include the entire state, and mandatory evacuation orders have already been issued for the Florida Keys and areas of Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale. Evacuations from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties could bring the number of people affected up to 6 million.
- AccuWeather looks at two more hurricanes that have formed in the region: Jose, which could hit some islands affected by Irma within days, and Katia, which is currently in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico.
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