While at least one billionaire was able to safely ride out the storm in his luxury wine cellar, most residents of the Caribbean islands that took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma Wednesday described scenes out of a "horror movie" as the megastorm—the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic—came ashore, rendering the island of Barbuda nearly "uninhabitable."
"Total carnage" is how Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, described the scene.
"It was easily one of the most emotionally painful experiences that I have had," Browne said in an interview, adding that thousands of people have been left homeless.
The storm also directly struck St. Barthélemy, St. Martin, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the United States Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
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"Nearly a million people were without power in Puerto Rico after hurricane-force winds and torrential rain," the New York Times reported. "Almost 50,000 people were without water."
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"The winds that we are experiencing right now are like nothing we have experienced before," said Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosello, adding that the storm has already done "significant damage" to the island.
Irma is expected to maintain record-setting wind speed Thursday as it barrels toward Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.
Save the Children observed in a press release: "Millions of children in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are currently exposed to the devastating impact of what's been dubbed the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade."
The organization continued:
In the Dominican Republic, emergency teams are working with armed forces and the police to evacuate civilians across 17 provinces in the north and east. It's believed up to three million people are affected—some 40 percent of whom live in poverty. With designated shelters able to accommodate just 900,000 people, emergency response teams are now turning to churches, schools and community centers as alternatives.
As the Guardian reported on Thursday: "Early estimates suggest 74,000 people, including 20,000 children, have been affected in the Caribbean so far."
Florida is also bracing for the storm, which is expected to make landfall in the state this weekend.
Philip Levine, mayor of Miami Beach, called the storm "a nuclear hurricane" in an appearance on CNN, and added: "Whether you're a resident or a visitor, you need to get out."