Hurricane IRMA: Heads towards Dom Rep, Haiti, the Bahamas

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hurricane-irma-photo-3.jpgHurricane Irma, still a category five storm with sustained wind speeds of 180mph (290kph) is heading towards the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Bahamas which it is forecast to hit on Thursday.

Ten people are so far reported to have died as the hurricane ripped through the Caribbean: a two-year-old in Barbuda, one person in Anguilla, and eight in the French part of St Martin. It is feared the death toll will rise.

Hurricane watches are likely be issued for parts of Florida later today. Mandatory evacuations have been issued to residents in coastal areas of Florida.

Massive damage has been reported across the islands already savaged by the storm, with homes and critical facilities flattened, power failures and communications down.

On Barbuda, the prime minister, Gaston Browne, said 90% of buildings had been destroyed and 50% of the population was homeless. He blamed the carnage on global warming and criticised world leaders who deny climate change. He also said he was considering ordering residents of Barbuda to evacuate if a second Hurricane, Jose, is forecast to hit the island in the coming days.

The French part of St Martin was "95% destroyed", according to Daniel Gibb, a local official. Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said there had been "enormous material damage" to the Dutch-administered south of the island.

France has sent an emergency team and supplies to St Martin and St Barthélemy (St Barts), both French overseas collectivities.

The UK has been criticised for its slow response to the hurricane, in the British territories in the Caribbean Theresa May has discussed launching a joint response with France, and ministers are due to hold a meeting of its emergency committee Cobra.

States of emergency are in place across the Caribbean, including in the Barbuda, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the most recent island to be hit with high winds and drenching rain.

Most of the population of Puerto Rico is without power and tens of thousands are without water.

The eye of the storm is due to pass just north of Hispaniola - the Dominican Republic and Haiti - on Thursday, moving on to Turks and Caicos and the southern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

Bahamas prime minister Hubert Minnis said his government was evacuating people from six islands in the south to the capital, Nassau, in the largest storm evacuation in the Bahamas' history.