UPDATE: The latest on Hurricane Irma

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- The Latest on Hurricane Irma (all times local):

4:40 p.m.
The star-studded Sept. 12 telethon scheduled to help victims of Hurricane Harvey is expanding its reach to include those affected by Hurricane Irma as well.
Event organizers say that they are prepared to help in any way they can.
BeyoncΘ, Blake Shelton, Barbra Streisand and Oprah Winfrey will headline the one-hour telethon that will be simulcast next week on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CMT.
The event will be telecast live at 8 p.m. Eastern on Sept. 12, and on tape delay at 8 p.m. on the West Coast, and streamed live on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
4:10 p.m.
Hurricane Irma's top sustained winds weakened by about 10 mph (16 kph) on Thursday because of a bit of dry air and interaction with land on the island of Hispaniola, but it is still a top-of-the-scale hurricane.
And according to meteorologist Jeff Masters with Weather Underground, Irma could intensify "back up to 185 mph (298 kph) or even higher because it is headed to warmer deeper water" over the Florida straits.
Although the hurricane center forecasts some more weakening because of upper-level winds that could arrive and fight the storm, Masters says those winds might develop too late on Sunday, after Irma has already turned north to Florida.
4 p.m.
Maj. Jeremy DeHart has some advice for Floridians after flying through Hurricane Harvey last month and now through the eye of Irma at 10,000 feet on Wednesday.
The U.S. Air Force Reserve weather officer says to "take it seriously .... because this is the real deal."
DeHart has flown into about 20 hurricanes, and he says he's never gone into anything quite so powerful. Or beautiful. Inside Irma's calm, cool center, there's a stadium effect, with thunderstorms flashing on the surrounding eyewall. He calls it "spectacular," and says the "satellite images can't do it justice."
3:45 p.m.
The fate of Florida depends on when and how Hurricane Irma makes a right turn.
National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini says forecasters have no doubt it will turn in the days ahead. If it's an early, sharp turn, Irma is more likely to keep closer to the peninsula's eastern shore or even over water as it churns north.
But if it turns later and more widely, the center of Irma and its maximum destructive capacity would move inland.
Jeff Masters, the meteorology director of Weather Underground, says the main factor determining the turn will most likely be a low pressure system expected to develop over the Great Lakes as part of a dip in the jet stream, with some extra help from winds flowing out of the newly formed Hurricane Katia.
3:35 p.m.
South Florida officials are expanding evacuation orders as Hurricane Irma approaches, telling more than a half-million people to seek safety inland.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has announced evacuation orders for downtown Miami and other parts of the city, plus southern parts of the county. The expanded evacuation area also includes Homestead, Coral Gables, South Miami, Miami Shores and North Miami Beach.
County officials had already ordered evacuations Wednesday for Miami Beach and the other barrier islands.
The total population for the affected communities is nearly 700,000 people, though the evacuation zones don't always include entire cities. Miami-Dade County's population is about 2.7 million.
3:20 p.m.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has a stark warning for anyone who wants to defy a mandatory evacuation order ahead of Hurricane Irma. He says: "If you live in any evacuation zones and you're still at home, LEAVE!"
Scott said he "cannot stress this enough. Do not ignore evacuation orders. You rebuild your home ... you cannot recreate your family."
And this: "Do not try to ride out this storm," he says. The time to leave is now, because he says "we can't save you once the storm hits."
3 p.m.
The eye of Hurricane Irma is moving west-northwest off the Dominican Republic's northern coast as an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Irma has top sustained winds near 175 mph (280 kph) and is expected to continue moving between Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos in the afternoon hours, on a course taking it to the southeastern Bahamas Thursday evening.
As of 2 p.m. EDT, Irma's crisply defined eye was about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north-northeast of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, moving at about 16 mph (25 kph) to the west-northwest.
In the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose has rapidly strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane with top sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph). Jose is following Irma's path, moving west-northwest at 18 mph (30 kph) over open ocean, about 660 miles (1,060 kilometers) east of the Lesser Antilles.
In the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia was virtually stationary Thursday afternoon, some 215 miles (345 kilometers) east of Tampico, Mexico. Forecasters say that Category 1 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph), should remain stationary through late Thursday, then approach the Mexican coast late Friday or early Saturday.
2:40 p.m.
A second Dutch navy ship has arrived at the shattered island of St. Maarten and is "ready to deliver aid to the population in need."
The Dutch navy just tweeted that the Pelikaan ship has moored at the island's capital of Philipsburg to unload vital supplies. Another navy vessel, the Zeeland, already is in the area and has been using an onboard helicopter to assess damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma.
Two military aircraft are being loaded in the Netherlands before flying to the island of Curacao, from where they will fly onward to St. Maarten to deliver five days of food and water for the 40,000 population. The aircraft also are bringing 100 more troops to deliver aid, repair infrastructure and restore order.
2:25 p.m.
Evacuation orders are multiplying across Florida as local officials try to get the most vulnerable populations to move to safety ahead of Hurricane Irma.
Miami Dade has now made evacuations mandatory for all of its coastal areas, barrier islands and mobile homes. Monroe County's mandatory order stands for the entire Florida Keys. Broward County's order remains voluntary for mobile homes and low-lying areas. Collier County issued a voluntary evacuation order for Marco Island.
County authorities across South Florida are making school buses available for people with special needs to get out.
Additional evacuations are expected throughout the state.
2:10 p.m.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Jose has grown into a Category 2 storm, and it threatens some of the same islands ravaged just days ago by Hurricane Irma.
Jose was about 660 miles (1,060) kilometers east of the Lesser Antilles early Thursday afternoon, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph).
It was heading to the west-northwest at 18 mph (20 kph)
The Hurricane Center says a hurricane watch is in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, which is already trying to recover from Category 5 Irma.
Now Jose could approach those islands on Saturday.
2:05 p.m.
The Dutch interior minister says one person is confirmed dead on the former colony of St. Maarten as a result of Category 5 Hurricane Irma.
Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said Thursday that there are also a number of injuries and that the Dutch authorities still only have an "incomplete picture" of the damage on St. Maarten, which is home to some 40,000 people and suffered severe damage as Irma barreled over on Wednesday.
Plasterk also says there have been some public order problems including instances of looting. He says the Netherlands is sending an extra 50 police from Curacao.
1:55 p.m.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statewide emergency declaration Thursday and told people to be prepared statewide even though projections suggest the storm could be much weaker by next week. Cooper says tropical storms can be very dangerous, and "this storm can impact any part of North Carolina -- all over our state from the mountains to the coast."
Nick Petro with the National Weather Service in Raleigh said heavy rain and inland wind damage could result in extended power outages and mountain mudslides as well as dangerous coastal surf.
More than 300 National Guard soldiers are being brought in to help, with more on standby. All highway work and lane closures are being suspended to help evacuations from other states.
1:50 p.m.
Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson says he and his staff rode out Hurricane Irma on his private Caribbean island without suffering injuries, but the area is heavily damaged.
The head of the Virgin Group owns small Necker island in the British Virgin Islands. He said in a blog entry Thursday that he and the staff who stayed with him in a concrete cellar on the island are safe and well.
Branson said the area surrounding his home is "completely and utterly devastated." He said entire houses have disappeared and "I have never seen anything like this hurricane."
Outside the cellar he said bathroom and bedroom doors and windows were blown out. He said he was communicating via a satellite phone, but all other communications were down.
1:45 p.m.
Haiti's interior minister has ordered the evacuation of coastal areas in the north of the country.
That includes people living in and around Port-de-Paix and the island known as Il de la Tortue.
Haiti is expected to be spared a direct hit from Hurricane Irma but heavy rains and high surf could trigger dangerous floods in the impoverished country.
Interior Minister Max Rudolph Saint-Albin is urging people to move to higher ground. Shelters have been set up the Civil Protection agency.
The evacuation is mandatory but Haiti does not have enough police or other officials to enforce evacuation orders and the number of people who left vulnerable areas is not known.
1:35 p.m.
The Cuban civil defense agency is preparing people on the northern coast of Cuba's eastern provinces for a sideswipe from Hurricane Irma in the hours ahead.
Santiago province has opened 125 evacuation centers that can hold 38,000 people. Another 20,000 people can take refuge with neighbors and family in safer zones.
Civil Defense representative Odesa Fuentes said the centers will be open for the duration of the storm's passage on Friday.
1:30 p.m.
President Donald Trump says "we are with the people of Florida" as Hurricane Irma draws near.
Speaking in the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump says his administration is "very concerned" as the record hurricane approaches the U.S. mainland, but he says "we think we're as well prepared as you can possibly be."
The president says he hopes the storm won't hit Florida directly.
He says, "We are with the people of Florida."
1:10 p.m.
As NASA secured Kennedy Space Center on Thursday for potentially catastrophic wind and rain, the private SpaceX company squeezed out a rocket launch.
Kennedy is closing its doors to all nonessential staff, effective Friday. Of 9,000 workers, a hurricane crew of 120 people will ride out Irma on site.
Most critical buildings can withstand gusts up to about 135 mph (217 kph), but Irma's winds could well exceed that if the storm's center reaches Cape Canaveral.
Space center workers rushed to stack sandbags at doorways and cover the Orion capsule scheduled to launch in two years on a brand new NASA rocket.
Meanwhile, SpaceX managed to launch an unmanned Falcon rocket carrying an Air Force minishuttle bound for a long experimental flight in orbit.
1 p.m.
Georgia's governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation starting on Saturday from the state's Atlantic coast ahead of Hurricane Irma. That includes the city of Savannah.
Gov. Nathan Deal issued the evacuation Thursday for all areas east of Interstate 95, all of Chatham County and some areas west of the interstate. He also expanded a state of emergency to 30 counties.
Deal's order authorizes about 5,000 Georgia National Guard members to be on active duty to help people respond and recover.
Georgia hasn't been hit by a hurricane with winds Category 3 or higher since 1898.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, also declared a state of emergency. A major strike there would be the first in nearly 28 years.
12:50 p.m.
U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp says they're getting badly needed federal help after Hurricane Irma significantly damaged St. Thomas and St. John with top winds of 150 mph for more than four hours. Fire and police stations collapsed and the main hospital in St. Thomas sustained heavy damage.
Mapp told The Associated Press Thursday authorities are distributing emergency food and water, tarps and other supplies, and evacuating hospital patients to Puerto Rico and elsewhere. A curfew remains in effect, including about 5,000 tourists.
And the governor is knocking down false reports that the government is confiscating firearms. He says that's a misunderstanding of standard language used to activate the National Guard. He says he's got hospitals breached, homes with roofs gone and police and fire stations that are blown away -- he's not interested in anybody's firearms.
12:40 p.m.
There have been very few cyclones stronger than Hurricane Irma. And there have been some that lasted longer. But no other storm in recorded history has maintained top winds of 185 mph for 37 hours.
Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach says that breaks the previous record, held by Typhoon Haiyan, which had similar top winds for 24 hours before it hit the Philippines and killed 6,000 people in 2013.
Irma also has been the most intense Atlantic hurricane on record outside the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, measured by its barometric pressure of 914 millibars.
12:30 p.m.
Gov. Rick Scott is urging all gas stations in Florida to stay open as long as possible to accommodate evacuees.
Scott even announced at his midday Thursday news conference that police escorts will get gas station employees out safely if necessary just ahead of Hurricane Irma.
He says authorities are already escorting fuel tankers through traffic and to gas stations as quickly as possible.
Scott says all of the state's ports are still operating, bringing in fuel and supplies.
He urged residents to take only as much gas as they need to make sure there is enough for everyone who needs it.
12:15 p.m.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says four people are confirmed dead and about 50 injured on the Caribbean island of St. Martin in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The prime minister said one person faces life-threatening injuries and two others were in serious condition.
The death toll was lower than one given earlier Thursday by France's interior minister, who said eight people had been killed on French Caribbean territories.
Philippe said four bodies have been found on St. Martin and are being identified. The island is part French, part Dutch, and Dutch authorities have not reported any casualties.
An official in Philippe's office said only four people are currently confirmed dead so far after a re-evaluation of the damage Wednesday. The official said the toll could rise as rescuers reach the scene. Philippe says large amounts of aid and equipment are en route to St. Martin and nearby St. Barts.
11:55 a.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says he will visit French territories damaged by Hurricane Irma, "as soon as the weather allows."
Speaking in Athens Thursday, Macron said he decided not to call off his two-day visit to Greece because prevailing weather conditions would have prevented a flight to the French territories, and an emergency government meeting in Paris was concluded before he left.
Irma, the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane on record, has affected French, British and Dutch Caribbean territories.

11:45 a.m.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott says the state is doing all it can to relieve fuel shortages and traffic jams to keep people evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irma.
Scott is acknowledging that empty pumps, long lines and crowded highways are "frustrating" for Floridians. But he says his administration is working with federal authorities and other states to move as much gas into Florida as they can.
This includes having the Florida Highway Patrol escort fuel trucks through any traffic.
Florida Highway Safety spokeswoman Beth Frady says troopers escorted trucks from two Florida ports to stations in Marion and Martin counties overnight, and also were escorting trucks from Georgia to stations in Perry, in north central Florida near where Interstate 75 crosses Interstate 10.
11:35 a.m.
Britain is sending hundreds of troops and the Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean to its overseas islands battered by Hurricane Irma.
Britain has already sent one ship, RFA Mount Bay, to Anguilla, which took the full force of the storm.
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Thursday he had ordered HMS Ocean to head to the Caribbean from the Mediterranean. Fallon also said the U.K. was sending "a task group of several hundred troops, marines, engineers and additional helicopters."
British authorities are being criticized for being slow to send aid to territories in the storm's path, but Fallon said "we are going to make sure the islands get the help they need."
Irma has hit the British territories Anguilla, Montserrat, the British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos.
11:30 a.m.
Dutch airline KLM has cancelled two flights to the hurricane-shattered island of St. Maarten as authorities struggle to assess the extent of the devastation to many buildings, including the airport.
KLM said in a statement Thursday it has cancelled flights scheduled to leave the Netherlands on Friday and Sunday for St. Maarten in the aftermath of Category 5 Hurricane Irma's direct hit on the island on Wednesday.
The carrier says it is "keeping a close eye on the situation and, based on the circumstances, will decide whether operations can be resumed."
The airline says it is in contact with the Dutch government and local authorities to seek a solution for passengers stranded amid the devastation.
11:20 a.m.
Hurricane Irma is flooding parts of the Dominican Republic as it roars by just off the northern coast of the island it shares with Haiti.
Officials said about 500 tourists in the Bavaro-Punta Cana area were moved to more secure shelters just ahead of the Category 5 storm.
Civil Defense Director Rafael Carrasco says a landslide in the Samana Peninsula affected eight houses and more than 2,500 people have been evacuated.
Punta Cana airport has reopened after being closed for several hours.
Haiti's northern coast will be next, but Irma's stronger winds have yet to reach that side of the island of Hispaniola.
11 a.m.
A hurricane watch is now in effect for the Florida Keys and parts of South Florida.
The U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami says a watch has been issued for the Florida Keys, and on the South Florida mainland from Jupiter Inlet southward and around the peninsula to Bonita Beach.
The center noted that Hurricane Irma was still an "extremely dangerous" Category 5 hurricane, although its winds had decreased slightly from 180 mph (285 kph) to 175 mph (280 kph).
The hurricane was headed for the Turks and Caicos Islands on Thursday.
The Hurricane Center has predicted that Irma will remain at Category 4 or 5 for the next day or two as it passes the Turks and Caicos, parts of the Bahamas by Thursday night, and skirts Cuba on Friday night into Saturday.
It will then likely head north toward Florida, where people were rushing to board up homes, fill cars with gasoline and find a route to safety.
10:45 a.m.
As thousands of Florida residents begin evacuating and others hunker down to ride out approaching monster Hurricane Irma, SpaceX has stuck with its long-planned launch of a super-secret Air Force space shuttle.
An unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off Thursday from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. It's the fifth flight for one of these crewless mini shuttles, known as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.
The two Air Force space planes have already logged a combined 5 1/2 years in orbit. But officials won't say what the spacecraft are doing up there. The last mission lasted almost two years and ended with a May touchdown at the runway formerly used by NASA's space shuttles.
As usual, SpaceX aims to land its leftover booster back at Cape Canaveral for eventual reuse.
This is the first time SpaceX has provided a lift for the experimental mini-shuttle.
10 a.m.
More than 1 million people in Puerto Rico are without power -- nearly 70 percent of customers of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority. Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello said Thursday that crews are investigating and until they know the extent of the damage, "it will be difficult to estimate how long the power outage will last."
Rossello added that ports on the island are still closed, and it's unclear when commercial flights will resume.
Schools and government offices are scheduled to reopen on Monday.
9 a.m.
Airports in the Bahamas are shutting down with the approach of Hurricane Irma.
The government says the international airport in Nassau will close late Thursday and it urges people who plan to leave the island chain east of Florida to check with airlines for space.
Grand Bahama's airport and the less-populated island throughout the chain will close by noon Friday.
Hurricane Irma has cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving at least 10 dead and thousands homeless. The storm could also make a catastrophic strike on Florida.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted Irma would remain at Category 4 or 5 for the next day or two as it passes just to the north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday, nears the Turks & Caicos and parts of the Bahamas by Thursday night and skirts Cuba on Friday night into Saturday.
It will then likely head north toward Florida, where people were rushing to board up homes, fill cars with gasoline and find a route to safety.
9 a.m.
President Donald Trump is urging people to "be careful, be safe" during Hurricane Irma.
In a tweet Thursday morning, Trump remarked that Irma "is raging but we have great teams of talented and brave people already in place and ready to help."
Trump asked people to "be careful, be safe!"
Hurricane Irma has cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving at least 10 dead and thousands homeless. The storm could also make a catastrophic strike on Florida.
Trump said Wednesday that the storm "looks like it could be something that could be not good, believe me, not good."

8:15 a.m.
French President Emmanuel Macron says France is "grief-stricken" by the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, and he's calling for concerted efforts to tackle global warming and climate change to prevent similar future natural disasters.
Speaking Thursday during a visit to Greece, Macron said the planet's situation must be stabilized and that leaders must make take steps to combat global warming "so we can avoid such natural disasters in the future."
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told Franc Info that at least eight people died and another 23 were injured when the monstrous Category 5 storm walloped the French Caribbean island territories of St. Martin and St. Barthelemy. That number is expected to rise.

7:50 a.m.
The Florida Highway Patrol says troopers are monitoring the high volume of traffic heading north on Florida's Turnpike as people evacuate South Florida.
In a news release Thursday, the highway patrol said extra troopers, road rangers and wreckers will be on the roadways to help drivers whose vehicles have become disabled.
The agency says disabled vehicles left on the shoulders of the highways would be towed starting Thursday morning to make it easier for emergency workers who are trying to reach crash victims.
Turnpike officials are also using cameras along the road to monitor conditions.
7:15 a.m.
The Dutch Ministry of Defense says two military aircraft will fly to the Caribbean island of Curacao on Thursday afternoon loaded with relief supplies and troops to help authorities on former Dutch colony St. Maarten recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma.
The ministry says the troops being sent to the region "can also be used to restore public order."
Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said earlier Thursday that he could not confirm news reports of looting in Saint Maarten, where a curfew is in force in the aftermath of Wednesday's storm.
The ministry says a KDC-10 and a C-130 Hercules are to fly to Curacao from a military air base in the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven. The Hercules will then be used to ferry supplies to St. Maarten because it should be able to land at the badly damaged Princess Juliana Airport
The planes will carry enough food and water to supply the 40,000-strong population for five days.
6:50 a.m.
The U.K. government says Hurricane Irma has inflicted "severe and in places critical" damage to the British overseas territory of Anguilla.
Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan says the Caribbean island took the full force of the category 5 hurricane.
He told lawmakers on Thursday that the British Virgin islands have also suffered "severe damage." On another British territory, Monsterrat, the damage is "not as severe as first thought."
Duncan said the hurricane is expected to hit another British overseas territory, Turks and Caicos, later Thursday.
Britain has dispatched a Royal Navy ship carrying marines and army engineers to the affected islands.
Duncan says there are "unconfirmed reports of a number of fatalities" as a result of the hurricane.
6:45 a.m.
The Dutch prime minister says Category 5 Hurricane Irma was a storm of "epic proportions" when it slammed into the former Dutch colony of Saint Maarten in the Caribbean and is appealing to Dutch citizens to donate to a relief fund set up by the Red Cross.
Speaking Thursday after a meeting of the government's crisis committee, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there are no reports yet of casualties on the Dutch side of the island. Rutte says the damage is huge, particularly on Saint Maarten, with "widescale destruction of infrastructure, houses and businesses."
He says, "there is no power, no gasoline, no running water. Houses are under water, cars are floating through the streets, inhabitants are sitting in the dark, in ruined houses and are cut off from the outside world."
The Dutch military is readying two aircraft to fly to the region to distribute vital aid to the shattered territory, which is home to some 40,000 people. However the airport on the Dutch side of the island is badly damaged.
5:35 a.m.
Authorities say at least one person has died in the northeast Caribbean island of Anguilla, raising the death toll of Hurricane Irma to at least 10 as the Category 5 storm roars through the region.
The Caribbean Disaster Management Agency reported the death early Thursday and said 90 percent of roads in Anguilla are impassible.
France's Interior Minister, Gerard Collomb, told Franc Info that at least eight people have died and another 23 were injured in the French Caribbean island territories of St. Martin and St. Barthelemy. That number is expected to rise.
In Barbuda, a 2-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm.
Authorities are struggling to get aid to small Caribbean islands devastated by the storm's record 185 mph (298 kph) winds.
5:15 a.m.
The eye of Hurricane Irma is moving west-northwest off the Dominican Republic's northern coast as the Category 5 storm continues is destructive path over the Caribbean.
French authorities announced Thursday that at least eight people have died on Saint-Martin.
As of 5 a.m. EDT Thursday, the hurricane was centered about 95 miles (155 kilometers) north of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and is moving at about 17 mph (28 kph) with maximum sustained winds near 180 mph (285 kph).
Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia has prompted a hurricane warning in Mexico in the state of Veracruz. That hurricane is centered about 195 miles (310 kilometers) northeast of Veracruz, Mexico. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the storm is stationary with little overall motion expected though late Thursday.
4:40 a.m.
French President Emmanuel Macron will go to the islands hit by Hurricane Irma as soon as weather conditions permit, after authorities announced at least eight people died on Saint-Martin.
Macron's office said Thursday that the president will travel to France's Caribbean territories "as soon as possible" once immediate rescue operations are complete.
The president of the territorial council, Daniel Gibbs, said on Radio Caraibes International that Saint-Martin is "95 percent destroyed."
The island is part French, part Dutch. The Dutch government is holding a crisis meeting about the damage to its part, St. Maarten.
Damages and casualties were also reported on the nearby French island of Saint-Barthelemy.
4:30 a.m.
Aerial images released by the Dutch Defense Ministry show scenes of utter devastation on the island of St. Maarten in the aftermath of a direct hit by Category 5 Hurricane Irma.
Video, shot from a navy helicopter sent to assess damage Wednesday evening, shows seafront hotels -- a mainstay of the Caribbean island's economy -- with their roofs badly damaged, palm trees stripped of fronds and poolside terraces covered in sand.
The island's airport also was hit hard, with what appeared to be sand washed up to parts of the main terminal and the building's roof extensively damaged. No aircraft were visible on the tarmac. The airport is famous around the world because its runway ends very close to a beach, where tourists can stand and watch landing aircraft skim low overhead.
Streets were largely deserted and littered with debris. At a port area, shipping containers were strewn like children's building blocks. Elsewhere, yachts were shown jumbled together in a small harbor, some overturned or dumped, upside down, onto the shore.
3:15 a.m.
The Dutch government is holding a crisis meeting to discuss its response to the damage inflicted on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, a former Dutch colony, by Hurricane Irma.
Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said early Thursday that ministers would huddle in The Hague to coordinate the aid operation after initial aerial images taken from a navy helicopter showed the extent of damage to the island.
Plasterk told Dutch NOS radio that there is "an extreme amount of damage, particularly on St. Maarten." He said the government had no confirmed reports yet of casualties, but stressed that communications were proving difficult.
Video images tweeted by the Dutch Defense Ministry and taken from a helicopter flying over the island showed damage to the airport and the dock and seafront areas. Elsewhere, roofs had been blown off by the hurricane that struck Wednesday.


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- The Latest on Hurricane Irma (all times local):

3 a.m.

France's Interior minister says Hurricane Irma has killed at least eight people and left 23 injured on French Caribbean island territories.

Speaking on French radio France Info, Gerard Collomb said the death toll in Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy could be higher because rescue teams have yet to finish their inspection of the islands.

Collomb said Thursday: "The reconnaissance will really start at daybreak."


2:40 a.m.

Hurricane Irma is moving to the northeast of the Dominican Republic after blacking out much of Puerto Rico and raking the U.S. territory with wind and rain.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the Category 5 storm's maximum sustained winds are near 180 mph (290 kph). The hurricane center says some fluctuations in strength are likely during the next day or two but Irma is expected to remain a powerful Category 4 or 5 hurricane.

As of 2 a.m. EDT, the storm was about 140 miles (225 kilometers) northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and is moving west-northwest near 16 mph (26 kph).


12:30 a.m.

Hurricane Irma has blacked out much of Puerto Rico as the dangerous Category 5 storm raked the U.S. territory with heavy wind and rain while staying just out to sea

Authorities are also struggling to get aid to small Caribbean islands devastated by the storm's record 185 mph (298 kph) winds earlier Wednesday.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne says nearly every building on Barbuda was damaged when the hurricane's core crossed almost directly over the island early Wednesday and about 60 percent of the island's roughly 1,400 people are homeless.

He says a 2-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm.


8:30 p.m.

The tourist board for the Caribbean island of Anguilla says the major resorts on the island survived a hit from Hurricane Irma but many private homes have been damaged.

It also says that the airport did not sustain any major damage but that it remains closed along with two ports.

Irma lashed the small British island territory with heavy wind and rain Wednesday. There were no reports of any deaths from the storm.

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