With communications still sketchy on many Caribbean islands smashed by Hurricane Irma, it requires a view from space to take in the magnitude of the destruction from one of the most powerful storms to form in the Atlantic.
Image after image, stretching from Barbuda in the east to Turks and Caicos in the west, shows devastation on a scale that will certainly take years and billions of dollars to rebuild and surely will never be forgotten by those who endured it firsthand. Nearly three dozen people died throughout the Caribbean.
Satellite imagery captured in the past few days puts the ruin in perspective:
The morning after the storm passed the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, Gov. Gaston Browne issued a statement thanking God for sparing his country. Sitting in St. John’s, the capital on the main island of Antigua, Browne was unaware of the destruction wrought on Barbuda. Contact with its residents had been lost around midnight. After visiting Barbuda, the governor’s optimism turned to despair. He said the island itself was “barely habitable” and that 90 percent of the houses and other structures there had been destroyed, colorful rooftops now so much rubble. At least one person, a toddler, was killed.
Landfall: Sept. 6, around 1 a.m. ET, as a Category 5 hurricane.
Winds: Sustained winds of 118 mph; gusts of up to to 155 mph.
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
The bustling half-French, half-Dutch island — a favorite vacation getaway for Americans and Europeans alike — has been brought to a standstill in the wake of Irma’s head-on strike. In the capital of the Dutch side, Philipsburg, population about 33,000, whole sections of town have been reduced to pieces. Officials estimate that 70 percent of the island’s homes were destroyed by the massive storm. At least four people were killed.
Landfall: Sept. 6, about 8 a.m. ET, as Category 5
Winds: Sustained winds of 117 mph (measured at Anguilla), with higher gusts.
Road Town, Tortola
With its verdant, sculptured landscape, the main island in the British Virgin Islands has long been a major tourist destination by air or cruise ship, as well as an unparalleled sailing charter hub. In Road Town, the waterfront that bustled with neat lines of boats secured in their slips is now a scene of disarray. Many of the buildings seem to have been blown apart, and boats lie sideways in their slips, masts in the water or turned upside down. Brown patches have replaced much of the greenery stripped away by Irma’s torrential rain and fearsome winds. Five people reportedly were killed by the storm in the British Virgin Islands.
Landfall: Sept. 6, around 1 p.m. ET, as Category 5
Winds: Gusts of up to 131 mph (at Buck Island).
Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
The low-lying coral archipelago, which is a British Overseas Territory, lies north of Hispaniola and east of the Bahamas. It’s home to about 35,000 people and is renowned for its crystal-clear water and prime dive spots. Now a whole section of the city seems to have been wiped out. On the main island of Providenciales, the infrastructure minister says, an entire community on the northwest side known as Blue Hill is simply “gone.”
Landfall: Sept. 7, about 7 p.m. ET, as Category 5
Winds: Gusts reportedly to 150 mph.