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Dailymail / News - Politics

Stark before and after photos show Irma's destruction

Before and after pictures reveal how airports, luxury hotels, beach front bars and entire marinas have been destroyed by 185mph Hurricane Irma since the early hours of Wednesday morning.

These starkly contrasting photos show how 185mph Hurricane Irma laid waste to Caribbean islands in a matter of hours.

Before and after pictures from some of the worst affected islands reveal how airports, luxury hotels, beach front bars and entire marinas have been destroyed by furious winds since the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The images emerged as Irma continued its path of destruction after slamming into Anguilla, Barbuda, Saint-Barthelemy, St Martin and the British Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have also been hit as the UN predicted 49 million people lie in the hurricane's path.

The before and after pictures show the extent of damage on holiday hotspots St Martin, where at least eight are confirmed dead, and the British Virgin Islands where Richard Branson's home was destroyed.

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A composite image shows how the Dolphin Discovery attraction on Tortola in the Virgin Islands was ravaged by Irma's force

Before: This was the plush atrium in the 144-room, waterfront Beach Plaza Hotel in St Martin before Irma struck on Wednesday

After: But by Wednesday night the same hotel had been badly damaged with water cascading through its atrium amid 185mph winds

Footage taken during the storm shows waves crashing underneath rooms at the hotel as Irma whipped the coastline of St Martin

This morning it emerged that Irma has killed at least 10 people as the dangerous Category 5 storm continued its destructive march across the Caribbean early Thursday.

At least eight people were killed and 23 injured in French Caribbean island territories, France's interior minister said. Speaking Thursday on French radio France Info, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the death toll in Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy could be higher because rescue teams have yet to finish their inspection of the islands.

'The reconnaissance will really start at daybreak,' Collomb said.

At a news conference, Collomb also said 100,000 food rations have been sent to the islands, the equivalent of four days of supplies.

'It's a tragedy, we'll need to rebuild both islands,' he said. 'Most of the schools have been destroyed.'

French President Emmanuel Macron's office said he will go to the islands has soon as weather conditions permit.

Irma blacked out much of Puerto Rico, raking the U.S. territory with heavy wind and rain while staying just out to sea, and it headed early Thursday toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Another composite image shows how Irma's power wrecked the popular Honky Tonk bar in Philipsburg St Martin

Before: The luxury Eden Rock hotel on St Barts, owned by the parents of Pippa Middleton's husband James Matthews, is a hotspot for celebrities including Tom Hanks, Jessica Alba and Jennifer Lopez

After: Pictures on social media show how it looks after being ravaged by Hurricane Irma on Wednesday when the storm swept over St Barts

To the east, authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands devastated by the storm's record 185 mph (298 kph) winds earlier Wednesday, while people in Florida rushed to get ready for a possible direct hit on the Miami area.

Communications were difficult with areas hit by Irma, and information on damage trickled out.

Nearly every building on Barbuda was damaged when the hurricane's core crossed almost directly over the island early Wednesday and about 60 percent of its roughly 1,400 residents were left homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told The Associated Press.

'It is just really a horrendous situation,' Browne said after returning to Antigua from a plane trip to the neighboring island.

He said roads and telecommunications systems were wrecked and recovery would take months, if not years. A 2-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm, Browne told the AP.

One death also was reported in the nearby island of Anguilla, where officials reported extensive damage to the airport, hospitals, shelters and school and said 90 percent of roads are impassible, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

The agency also reported 'major damage' to houses and commercial buildings in the British Virgin Islands.

Before: This was the scene at Paraquita Bay as the eye of Hurricane Irma passed Tortola in the British Virgin Islands

Before: Pictures show how the marina was laid to waste as boats were driven onto the shoreline by the force of the storm

Before: The popular Ivan's Stress Free Bar on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands was a hit with tourists and locals alike

After: But by the end of Wednesday, the area had been laid to waste by Hurrican Irma it swept north west over the British Virgin Islands

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This was the scene at Princess Juliana airport on St Martin after the Hurricane tore across the island yesterday

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Princess Juliana airport on the Dutch side of St Martin was famed for its proximity to the beach with tourists gathering to watch planes land just over their heads

On St. Thomas in the nearby U.S. Virgin Islands, Laura Strickling spent 12 hours hunkered down with her husband and 1-year-old daughter in a boarded-up basement apartment with no power as the storm raged outside. They emerged to find the lush island in tatters. Many of their neighbors' homes were damaged and once-dense vegetation was largely gone.

'There are no leaves. It is crazy. One of the things we loved about St. Thomas is that it was so green. And it's gone,' Strickling said. 'It will take years for this community to get back on its feet.'

Significant damage was also reported on St. Martin, an island split between French and Dutch control. Photos and video circulating on social media showed major damage to the airport in Philipsburg and the coastal village of Marigot heavily flooded. France sent emergency food and water there and to the French island of St. Bart's, where Irma ripped off roofs and knocked out electricity.

By early Thursday, the center of the storm was about 95 miles (155 kilometers) north of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and was moving west-northwest near 17 mph (28 kph).

More than half the island of Puerto Rico was without power, leaving 900,000 in the dark and nearly 50,000 without water, the U.S. territory's emergency management agency said in the midst of the storm. Fourteen hospitals were using generators after losing power, and trees and light poles were strewn across roads.

Puerto Rico's public power company warned before the storm hit that some areas could be left without power from four to six months because its staff has been reduced and its infrastructure weakened by the island's decade-long economic slump.

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Pictures show the port area of Saint Martin with ships docked and containers stacked on the port. The same containers were thrown around like Lego bricks by a brutal onslaught brought of wind and rain

State maintenance worker Juan Tosado said he was without power for three months after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. 'I expect the same from this storm. It's going to be bad,' he said.

President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies to remove debris and give other services that will largely be paid for by the U.S. government.

Pauline Jackson, a 59-year-old registered nurse from Florida visiting Puerto Rico, said she had tried to leave before the storm but all flights were sold out.

She has a reservation to fly out Friday and is worried about her home in Tampa. 'When you're from Florida, you understand a Category 5 hurricane,' she said.

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Satellite images show sun loungers lined up on a beach at a resort in St Martin. But the same resort was swept away by the power of Irma

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Boats were moored up in a plush marina on St Martin (left) but ended up stacked on top of each other after the hurricane hit

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Devastation: Satellite images show the tops of buildings on St Martin were ripped off and strewn across the streets below

The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted Irma would remain at Category 4 or 5 for the next day or two as passes just to the north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday, nears the Turks & Caicos and parts of the Bahamas by Thursday night and skirts Cuba on Friday night into Saturday. It will then likely head north toward Florida.

The storm is expected to hit Florida sometime Sunday, and Gov. Rick Scott said he planned to activate 7,000 National Guard soldiers by Friday. He warned that Irma is 'bigger, faster and stronger' than Hurricane Andrew, which wiped out entire neighborhoods in south Florida 25 years ago.

Experts worried that Irma could rake the entire Florida east coast from Miami to Jacksonville and then head into Savannah, Georgia, and the Carolinas, striking highly populated and developed areas.

'This could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago,' said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.