Hurricane Irma Skirts Puerto Rico, Leaves 1 Million Without Power

Thursday, September 7, 2017
By Paul Martin

by ALEX JOHNSON, DANIEL ARKIN, JASON CUMMING and BILL KARINS
NBCNews.com
SEP 7 2017

Hurricane Irma carved a merciless path of destruction through the Caribbean, killing at least five and leaving thousands homeless before plunging more than 1 million residents of Puerto Rico into darkness.

As the eye of the Category 5 storm passed north of Puerto Rico early Thursday, a string of Caribbean islands grappled with flattened homes, flooding and widespread devastation. Irma battered the tiny island of Barbuda and the island territories of St. Bart and St. Martin, where local officials said about 95 percent of the island was completely demolished after Wednesday’s thrashing.

“It is an enormous disaster … I am in shock,” Daniel Gibbs, chairman of a council on St. Martin, told Radio Caribbean International.

While Irma, the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record, skirted Puerto Rico on Wednesday night as it stayed just out to sea, it was expected to graze the Dominican Republic before targeting the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos on Friday. A hurricane watch was issued Thursday for portions of southern Florida and the Florida Keys.

On Thursday morning, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said officials were beginning the arduous task of assessing damage to the island and bringing back electricity to its hardest hit areas.

Rossell√≥ also warned the potentially deadly weather wasn’t over, alerting residents to flash flooding and additional rain through Saturday after much of the island was drenched with 2 to 8 inches of rain. Bent trees, downed light posts and blocked roadways were common.

“Our objective was and is to save lives,” Rossell√≥ said. “Now comes the evaluation of the damages and reconstruction.”

Irma is only the latest setback for Puerto Rico, which has been ravaged by an economic crisis for the last decade. Its crumbling infrastructure means that parts of the U.S. territory could be blacked out for months, authorities warned earlier in the week.

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