The tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda is “practically uninhabitable” after it was steamrolled by Hurricane Irma, officials there said as the superstorm’s confirmed death toll climbed to three Wednesday.
Barbuda and Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne reported that 90 percent of the structures on Barbuda were destroyed by the ‘cane, which was packing sustained 185-mph winds when it made landfall at 1:47 a.m.
“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.”
“A significant number of the houses have been totally destroyed,” said his chief of staff, Lionel Hurst.
One person has been confirmed dead there.
Browne released an optimistic statement early Wednesday from lesser-hit Antigua, which is home to about 80,000.
“It is clear that Antigua and Barbuda has stood up to a mighty test,” he wrote in the statement posted to Facebook.
But he revised his opinion after taking a helicopter ride to survey the damage to Barbuda, which is just 30 miles north of Antigua.
“I never contemplated any possibility that you could have such a contrast,” he said of the relative destruction.
Browne said he would order both islands evacuated should Hurricane Jose, which is brewing out in the Atlantic, head their way.
The massive weather system claimed two lives on the nearby islands of St. Barts and St. Martin too, though officials are expecting that toll to rise as rescue and recovery work begins.
“At the present moment, there are reports of two dead and two seriously injured,” said the French minister for overseas affairs, Annick Girardin, according to Agence France-Presse. “But obviously, the situation can change very, very quickly.”
St. Barts is a French territory, and St. Martin is split by France and the Netherlands.
“I am shocked by the monster that covers us, the island is devastated, it is apocalyptic, a lot of damage, many roofs destroyed,” St. Barts senator Michel Magras told the UK’s Daily Express.
The hurricane — which set a record as the Atlantic Ocean’s strongest ever for 185-mph sustained winds before entering the Caribbean Sea — slammed into the tiny holiday enclave with such force that it destroyed the weather station there, according to the Independent.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced the country would set up a relief fund for the battered island and said, “A national reconstruction plan will be implemented as soon as possible.”