Hurricane Irma is most powerful ever in Atlantic as it hits Caribbean islands

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hurricane-irma-photo-3.jpgThe most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history bore down on the islands of the north-east Caribbean on Tuesday night local time, following a path predicted to then rake Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.

At the far north-eastern edge of the Caribbean, authorities on the Leeward Islands of Antigua and Barbuda cut power and urged residents to shelter indoors as they braced for Hurricane Irma's first contact with land early on Wednesday.

Officials warned people to seek protection from Irma's "onslaught" in a statement that closed with: "May God protect us all."

The category 5 storm had maximum sustained winds of 185 miles (295km) per hour by early Tuesday evening, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami.

Category 5 hurricanes are rare and are capable of inflicting life-threatening winds, storm surges and rainfall. Hurricane Harvey, which last week devastated Houston, was category 4.