Irma’s victims in the Caribbean brace for another hurricane

By Associated Press staff

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua — Tens of thousands of Irma victims across the Caribbean fought desperately to find shelter or escape their storm-blasted islands altogether Friday as another hurricane following close behind threatened to add to their misery.

With Irma and its 155 mph winds taking dead aim at the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people, the death toll in the storm’s wake across the Caribbean climbed to 22.

Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the eastern part of Cuba reported no major casualties or damage by mid-afternoon Friday after Irma rolled north of the Caribbean’s biggest islands.

But many others were left reeling after the storm ravaged some of the world’s most exclusive tropical playgrounds, known for their turquoise waters and lush green vegetation. Among them: St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla.

Irma knocked out power, water and telephone service, trapped thousands of tourists, and stripped trees of their leaves, leaving an eerie, blasted-looking landscape.

On Friday, looting and gunshots were reported on St. Martin, and a curfew was imposed in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Many of Irma’s victims fled their islands on ferries and fishing boats for fear of Hurricane Jose, a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds that could punish some places all over again with high winds and heavy rain over the weekend.

“I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to know that further damage is imminent,” said Inspector Frankie Thomas of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda.

On Barbuda, a coral island rising a mere 125 feet above sea level, authorities ordered an evacuation of all 1,400 people to neighboring Antigua, where Stevet Jeremiah was reunited with one son and made plans to bury another.

Jeremiah, who sells lobster and crab to tourists, was huddled in her wooden home on Barbuda early Wednesday with her partner and their 2- and 4-year-old boys as Irma ripped open their metal roof and sent the ocean surging into the house.

Her younger son, Carl Junior Francis, was swept away. Neighbors found his body after sunrise.

“Two years old. He just turned 2, the 17th, last month. Just turned 2,” she repeated. Her first task, she said, would be organize his funeral. “That’s all I can do. There is nothing else I can do.”

The dead included 11 on St. Martin and St. Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands, four in the British Virgin Islands and one each on Anguilla and Barbuda.

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