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A Category 5, the strongest hurricane there is, Irma has cut a swath through the Caribbean for several days, killing at least 22 people, downing power, destroying buildings and causing massive flooding.
When the hurricane went through the island Wednesday, Sanandaji described a scene of “sheer terror.”
In Brewers Bay, Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, about 150 kilometres to the east of Puerto Rico, 59-year-old Anita Gulliver is safe, but her exact whereabouts are unknown, her daughter Natalie told the Star.
“The most that I know is that I got a text message with a photograph of a note that someone had written saying that she was safe,” Natalie said. “I have no further information; I’m hoping that she’s safe.”
“At that point, the wind was already blowing and they were already terrified. And we were still, like, six hours away from the eye of the storm actually hitting them,” Natalie said.
Michael Moriarty and his wife, Meryl Zacitz, were vacationing in St. Maarten when the storm hit, and have only been able to contact family intermittently.
“Please contact the Canadian consulate and tell them we’re stuck in Simpson Bay Resort and that we are stranded and they need to rescue us,” Moriarty wrote in a text message to his sister, Monique Balmforth.
“We are very frightened right now and don’t know what’s going on or what’s happened,” Balmforth said.
Natasha Nystrom, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said in a statement that the government is updating its travel advisories page, and sending affected Canadians messages over email, text and social media.
The storm raged past Cuba’s northern coast Friday toward the Bahamas and Florida, threatening the state with destruction not seen in a generation. The crush to leave Florida had millions of people on the move. Highways were jammed, gas was scarce, airports were packed and mandatory evacuations began to roll out as the first official hurricane watches were issued for the region, which could face destruction not seen since Category 5 Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
“They need to get out and listen and heed the warnings.”
Toronto resident Gail Rutherford was stranded in Ft. Lauderdale Friday after her flight back to Toronto was cancelled.
The area where she had been staying was evacuated, so when she spoke to The Star Friday she was staying in her mom’s hospital room, unable to leave, she said, because she wouldn’t be allowed to reenter the closed hospital.
She thought about the scores of people she saw at the airport, just trying to get out safely before Irma hits.
“There are lineups outside the airport of people standing with their suitcases.”
But some are grieving over the loss of loved ones.
On Barbuda, a coral island rising a mere 38 metres above sea level, authorities ordered an evacuation of all 1,400 people to neighbouring Antigua, where Stevet Jeremiah was reunited with one son and made plans to bury another.
Jeremiah, who sells lobster and crab to tourists, was huddled in her wooden home on Barbuda early Wednesday with her partner and their 2- and 4-year-old boys, as Irma ripped open their metal roof and sent the ocean surging into the house.
Her younger son, Carl Junior Francis, was swept away.
Neighbours found his body after sunrise.
“Two years old. He just turned 2, the 17th, last month. Just turned 2,” she repeated. Her first task, she said, would be to organize his funeral.
“That’s all I can do. There is nothing else I can do.”
With files from The Washington Post, The Canadian Press and Orlando Sentinel