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Hurricane Irma wreaks an estimated $1.4 billion worth of damage

HURRICANE IRMA WREAKS AN ESTIMATED $1.4 BILLION WORTH OF DAMAGE

Florida has ordered millions of citizens to evacuate as massive Hurricane Irma menaces the southeastern US state. Analysts said Saturday that Hurricane Irma has wreaked an estimated $1.4 billion worth of damage and the material damage of the deadly hurricane could go up to $200 billion.

Florida has ordered 5.6 million people to evacuate as massive Hurricane Irma menaces the southeastern US state, according to its Division of Emergency Management.

Irma regained strength as a Category 5 storm late Friday as it made landfall on the Camaguey Archipelago of Cuba, and is now swirling about 275 miles (440 kilometers) away from Miami packing maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour.

Irma is expected to strike the Florida Keys late Saturday and Sunday before moving inland, according to the National Hurricane Center, and many residents have joined a mass exodus amid increasingly dire warnings to leave.


* Hundreds of people gather in an emergency shelter at the Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center in Miami, Florida, September 8, 2017 (AFP Photo)

As it roared across the Caribbean the monster storm claimed at least 19 lives, devastating a series of tiny islands like Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin -- where 60 percent of homes were wrecked and looting broke out -- before slamming into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Warning that Irma would be worse than Hurricane Andrew -- which killed 65 people in 1992 -- Florida's governor Rick Scott had said all of the state's 20.6 million inhabitants should be prepared to evacuate.


* Traffic rolls at a crawl on the northbound lanes of Florida's Turnpike near the intersection of I-75 in Wildwood, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (AP Photo)

IRMA DAMAGE TO ST BARTS, ST MARTIN ESTIMATED AT 1.2 BN EUROS
Hurricane Irma has wreaked an estimated 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) worth of damage in the Caribbean territories of St Martin and St Barts, French state-owned reinsurer CCR said Saturday.

"This amount covers damages to homes, vehicles and businesses" insured for natural disasters, CCR said in a statement.

The disaster is "one of the worst experienced by France in 35 years," it said.

CCR chief Bertrand Labilloy said Friday that the reinsurer had "sufficient reserves to cover the disaster whatever the cost."


* Hurricane Irma is driving toward Florida passing the eastern end of Cuba as Hurricane Katia (L) is also seen in this NASA GOES satellite image taken at 1737 EDT (2137 GMT) on September 8, 2017. (Reuters Photo)

The overall damage across the Caribbean has been estimated at more than $10 billion.

Sint Maarten, the Dutch part of St Martin, has suffered $2.5 billion in damage, according to the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM) in Germany.

Irma is projected to hit Florida late Saturday, and according to data modelling firm Enki Research the total bill for loss and damage could hit $120 billion once the United States is included.


* This Thursday, Sept. 8, 2017 photo shows storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma (AP Photo)

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT HURRICANE IRMA: FACTS, FIGURES, FORECAST
Hurricane Irma has pounded the Caribbean, destroying homes and leaving at least 19 people dead.

The rare Category Five hurricane made landfall in Cuba's Camaguey Archipelago late on Friday as a maximum-strength Category Five storm, and is now bearing down on the US state of Florida, where authorities have ordered 5.6 million people to evacuate.

The International Red Cross says 1.2 million people have already been affected by Irma -- a number that could rise to 26 million.

The bill for loss and damage could hit $120 billion (100 billion euros) in the United States and the Caribbean, according to data modelling firm Enki Research.

- Barbuda -
Irma hit the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda on Wednesday. The island suffered "absolute devastation," with up to 30 percent of properties demolished, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.

One person is known to have died on the island of 1,600 residents, apparently a child whose family was trying to get to safer ground.

- St Barts and St Martin -
Irma then slammed into the holiday islands of St Barts and St Martin, wielding monster winds and torrential rain.

St Martin is divided between France and the Netherlands. France said 10 people had died, while the Netherlands said the storm killed two on the Dutch side, called Sint Maarten.

Both governments said the damage was enormous and condemned looting.

"It's an enormous catastrophe. Ninety-five percent of the island is destroyed," said Daniel Gibbs, a top a top local official in French St Martin.

- Virgin Islands -
At least four people were killed in the US Virgin Islands, officials told AFP.

"We lost a significant and a good number of assets... in terms of fire stations, police stations," Governor Kenneth Mapp said on Facebook, adding that the region's main health facility, the Schneider Regional Medical Center, lost its roof.

In the British Virgin Islands, governor Gus Jaspert declared a state of emergency and said "there have sadly been reports of casualties and fatalities".

- Puerto Rico -
At least two people were killed in the US territory of Puerto Rico, and more than half of its three million residents were without power after rivers broke their banks in the centre and north of the island.

- Dominican Republic -
The storm tore past the Dominican Republic Thursday, packing winds of 285 kph and torrential rain. Some 20,000 people were evacuated and more than 2,000 homes hit by floods.

- Haiti -
Irma brought flooding and caused several injuries in Haiti, but passed further north than had been forecast, sparing the impoverished island the worst.

In northwest Haiti, a motorcyclist was missing after trying to cross a flooded river and a number of roads were washed out.

- Bahamas -
The Bahamas escaped the worst of Irma's wrath, with no casualties or major infrastructure damages reported Friday.

But reports indicated that there were several downed power lines, toppled trees, debris and roofs damaged.

- Cuba -
Irma made landfall on the communist island's Camaguey Archipelago late Friday (around 0300 GMT Saturday). Close to a million people have left their homes to stay with relatives or in official shelters.

The Caribbean's biggest island, Cuba had already evacuated 10,000 foreign tourists from beach resorts and raised its disaster alert level to maximum ahead of Irma's arrival.

- Where next? -
Irma, the longest hurricane on record at this intensity, regained strength as a Category 5 storm late Friday, swirling 275 miles away from Miami packing maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour.

Irma is expected to strike the Florida Keys late Saturday and Sunday before moving inland to Georgia and South Carolina, according to the NHC.

State authorities have ordered 5.6 million to evacuate, and many residents have joined a mass exodus.

The US military was mobilising thousands of troops and deploying several large ships to aid with evacuations and humanitarian relief.

US President Donald Trump has already declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Florida, while Georgia ordered the evacuation of the city of Savannah and other coastal areas.

- More hurricanes -
On Friday, another hurricane, Jose, strengthened to Category 4 as it followed the path of Irma, packing winds of 240 kph.

St Barts and St Martin have been placed on alert ahead of its projected passage over the islands.

A third hurricane, Katia, made landfall in eastern Mexico late Friday, just as the country grappled with its worst earthquake in a century.

Katia had weakened to a Category One storm by the time it reached the state of Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico.

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