Irma is expected to maintain powerful winds. – New York Times
• The death toll from Hurricane Irma stood at 11 on Thursday morning, but the authorities warned that it would rise as communications improved.
• The storm, one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic, made direct hits on Barbuda, St. Barthélemy, St. Martin, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, and raked the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
• Nearly a million people were without power in Puerto Rico after hurricane-force winds and torrential rain. Almost 50,000 people were without water, according to the territory’s emergency management agency.
• The Category 5 hurricane, which by 5 a.m. Thursday had slowed to 180 miles per hour from 185, left Barbuda in shambles, damaging 95 percent of its buildings and leaving the island “barely habitable.”
Irma is expected to maintain powerful winds.
Irma had wind speeds of 185 m.p.h. for more than 24 hours, the longest period ever recorded. The French weather service described it as the most enduring superstorm on record.
Around 8 a.m., the storm’s eye was off the northern coast of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the National Hurricane Center said, and it is expected to remain a Category 4 or 5 storm through Thursday.
It is likely to then move near the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas on Thursday night, before coming close to Cuba on Friday or Saturday.
All schools in Haiti — public and private — were closed on Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the hurricane.
President Jovenel Moïse said in a televised speech that his cabinet had spent a week preparing for the hurricane, establishing shelters and sending drinkable water to northern areas expected to be hit. He said public safety workers had begun to move people away from the water and into shelters.
But Mr. Moïse also outlined the challenges ahead, noting that 77 percent of Haiti is mountainous terrain, much of it inaccessible by road.
He implored the population to take heed of the hurricane warnings and to get to a safe place.
“The hurricane is not a game,” he said.
— CATHERINE PORTER
Turks and Caicos brace for the storm’s impact.
The Turks and Caicos Islands, a British overseas territory, were preparing for Hurricane Irma on Thursday, even as the British government came under criticism for not doing enough for territorities hit by the storm, like the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla, where one person died.
Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, defended the government’s record, however, saying that Britain had responded quickly to the storm. Priti Patel, the international development secretary, said a naval ship had been deployed to the region with 40 marines, army engineers, vehicles, tents and equipment to help deal with the devastation. Britain has also sent three experts in humanitarian interventions, he said.
Nevertheless, some critics said the British response had been tepid compared with France’s. Josephine Gumbs-Connor, a lawyer from Anguilla, told the BBC that the British government should have done more. “The French made sure they had military on the ground so the response given is timely, which makes it effective, which makes it helpful to our people,” she said.
She added that the hurricane had wreaked havoc on the island.
In Turks and Caicos, people took to social media to express their fears and frustrations, sometimes with dark humor.
—DAN BILEFSKY AND ILIANA MAGRA
The storm’s threat to Florida increases.
The possibility of a major impact on the state has increased, the National Hurricane Center said early Thursday.
The center said the storm was likely to become a Category 4 hurricane when it makes landfall in Florida early Saturday. Tropical-force winds were expected to batter the Keys, the Florida chain of islands under a mandatory evacuation order.
President Trump has declared a state of emergency in Florida, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.
Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, issued a mandatory evacuation order on Wednesday. Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, advised people to evacuate some areas. In South Florida, which has millions of people and only two major highways to take people farther north, traffic and fuel shortages were becoming problems as people tried to get out of the storm’s path.
Buses in Key West will begin evacuating residents at noon Thursday, and residents have been asked to go to their nearest bus stop, according to a government website. Pickups will continue through Thursday afternoon and will resume at 6 a.m. on Friday.
—FRANCES ROBLES and RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
‘It’s just unbelievable. It’s indescribable.’
French officials said Thursday morning that at least eight people had been killed in the French Caribbean and that rescue workers were just beginning to assess the damage Hurricane Irma had inflicted on the islands of St. Martin and St. Barthélemy.
At least three deaths were reported elsewhere.
Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said that the figure of 23 wounded that had been provided by the French authorities might have included patients who had been hospitalized before the storm.
“The destruction is massive,” Mr. Collomb said, noting that schools had almost all been destroyed.
“By chance, the airport in the north, the French airport, has not been hit too much, so we are going to be able to land helicopters and then planes,” he said. The southern airport, in the Dutch part of the island, was more severely hit, he added.
Mr. Collomb said that the French authorities were sending barges filled with water and 100,000 French Army rations to the two islands, enough to sustain the populations there for four days.
He said that one of the main priorities was to restore electricity, to bring back the desalination plant that provides the island with drinkable water, and to get phone networks back online.
Daniel Gibbs, the president of the French territorial council on St. Martin, told Radio Caraïbes International on Wednesday night that “95 percent of the island is destroyed.”
“There are shipwrecks everywhere, destroyed houses everywhere, torn off roofs everywhere,” Mr. Gibbs said. “It’s just unbelievable, it’s indescribable.”
Asked what the island needed, Mr. Gibbs said “everything” and noted that another storm, Hurricane Jose, was expected soon after Irma.
“I need the nation to send sufficient reinforcements, to evacuate those who can be evacuated,” he said. “Because if another hurricane hits us on Saturday, it just won’t be possible. It’s not the dead that we will be counting, it’s the living.”
French authorities have expressed particular worry over the past few days about the roughly 7,000 people who refused to evacuate and take shelter inland.
Mr. Collomb, the interior minister, said that rescue workers were still trying to reach remote parts of the islands, but that so far the death toll was lower than the authorities had feared.
Annick Girardin, the minister for France’s overseas territories, said Thursday morning upon arriving on the island of Guadeloupe that “all the buildings on St. Martin,” including the hospital and fire station, had been hit by the hurricane.
“Other buildings are in a sorry state or don’t exist anymore,” she told reporters at the airport in Point-à-Pitre, the largest city on Guadeloupe.
Ms. Girardin said that the authorities would use the island as a base to deliver aid to St. Martin and to bring back the wounded.
—AURELIEN BREEDEN and ELIAN PELTIER
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