What we know about hurricanes Irma and Jose: facts, figures, forecast

A sailor leaves with his belongings after loosing his boat in Marigot, in Saint-Martin island devastated by Irma hurricane, on September 9, 2017. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 10 September 2017

What we know about hurricanes Irma and Jose: facts, figures, forecast

PARIS: Hurricane Irma has pounded the Caribbean, leaving at least 25 people dead, destroying thousands of homes and triggering a mass evacuation in the US state of Florida.
After making landfall in Cuba’s Camaguey archipelago late Friday, Irma is now bearing down on Florida, where authorities have ordered 6.3 million people to evacuate.
Irma, previously a top-rated Category Five storm, weakened Saturday to Category Four and then to a Category Three, packing 125 mile-an-hour winds (205 kilometer per hour).
With near-hurricane force winds lashing the Florida Keys starting around 8:00 p.m. (0100 GMT), the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that “Irma is forecast to restrengthen” as it approaches mainland Florida.
A second Category Four hurricane, Jose, followed part of Irma’s track, but spared storm-hit Caribbean islands of St. Martin and St. Barts, which had already suffered catastrophic damage.
Jose is expected to veer north and pose no threat to the United States.
The death toll stands at at least 25: 12 in the French island of St. Barts and the Dutch-French territory of St. Martin; six in British Caribbean islands; at least four in the US Virgin Islands; at least two in Puerto Rico; and one in Barbuda.
The International Red Cross says 1.2 million people have already been affected by Irma — a number that could rise to 26 million.
The bill for loss and damage could hit $120 billion (100 billion euros) in the United States and Caribbean, according to data modelling firm Enki Research.
Irma hit the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda on Wednesday with winds up to 295 kph. The island suffered “absolute devastation,” with up to 30 percent of properties demolished, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.
One person is known to have died on the island of 1,600 residents, apparently a child whose family was trying to get to safer ground.
Irma then slammed into the holiday islands of St. Barts and St. Martin, wielding monster winds and torrential rain.
St. Martin is divided between France and the Netherlands. France said 10 people had died on its side, while the Netherlands said the storm killed two on the Dutch side, called Sint Maarten.
On the Dutch side, 70 percent of the infrastructure has been destroyed.
Debris still clogs the streets, many homes are uninhabitable, communications are still down, tens of thousands are without food, water or power, and the authorities are struggling to prevent looting.
In the British archipelago of Anguilla, one man was crushed to death in a house collapse.
Five people have been killed in the British Virgin Islands, according to the local government.
Just east of Puerto Rico, it is home to roughly 28,000 people and includes British billionaire Richard Branson’s Necker Island.
At least four people have been killed in the US Virgin Islands, officials told AFP.
At least two people were killed in the US territory of Puerto Rico, and more than half of its three million residents were without power after rivers broke their banks in the center and north of the island.
Some 20,000 people were evacuated and more than 2,000 homes affected by floods in the Dominican Republic, the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola, which is also shared by Haiti.
Irma brought flooding and caused several injuries in Haiti, but passed further north than had been forecast, sparing the impoverished island the worst. A number of roads were washed out.
Irma made landfall on the island’s Camaguey Archipelago late Friday. Close to a million people have left their homes to stay with relatives or in shelters and the electricity supply cut as a precautionary measure.
Cuba had already evacuated 10,000 foreign tourists from beach resorts and raised its disaster alert level to maximum ahead of Irma’s arrival.
Irma is expected to strike the Florida Keys early Sunday, tracking along the peninsula’s western coast, which faces the Gulf of Mexico, rather than the more heavily populated Atlantic side, according to the US National Hurricane Center.
But the storm is so wide that the authorities have ordered 6.3 million people — more than quarter of Florida’s population — to evacuate and many residents have joined a mass exodus.
The US military is mobilizing thousands of troops and deploying several large ships to help with evacuations and humanitarian relief.
A state of emergency has been declared in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Georgia ordered the evacuation of the city of Savannah and other coastal areas.
Hurricane Jose, after strengthening to Category 4 status, passed 135 kilometers (83 miles) north of St. Barts and 125 kilometers from Saint Martin.
France’s meteorological agency had issued its highest warning, saying Hurricane Jose could become a “dangerous event of exceptional intensity.”
But “thanks to a passage which was further away than anticipated, the effects on the territory were markedly less,” the meteorological agency said.
Another hurricane, Katia, made landfall in eastern Mexico late Friday killing two people, just as the country grappled with damage inflicted by its worst earthquake in a century.


New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern calls September election

Updated 4 min 31 sec ago

New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern calls September election

  • The center-left leader on Tuesday announced Kiwis would go to the polls on September 19
  • The New Zealand economy has struggled under low growth, while the cost of living has risen
WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called a general election for September, in a vote that will test whether her widespread popularity overseas is matched by support at home.

The center-left leader on Tuesday announced Kiwis would go to the polls on September 19, two months ahead of the last possible date for the ballot, when she will seek a second three-year term.

“I will be asking New Zealanders to continue to support my leadership and the current direction of the government, which is grounded in stability, a strong economy and progress on the long term challenges facing New Zealand,” Ardern said.

The 39-year-old’s first term won her international fame — she became a mother while in office and received praise for her sensitive handling of the Christchurch mosques killings and the White Island volcano tragedy.

But while she has been feted overseas, opinion polls show her standing at home has slipped.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges has led the center-right National party into more populist territory, attacking Ardern over a land dispute with Maori groups and attacking her gun buy-back scheme introduced after Christchurch.

Ardern has also come under fire for her party’s long-running KiwiBuild scheme, which was designed to make owning a home more affordable by constructing 100,000 homes, but has so far failed to match expectations.

Bridges reacted to the election announcement by pledging to lead a government that “will deliver” on its promises

“New Zealanders know we will get things done, whether it’s more money in your pocket, a stronger economy, less tax, building infrastructure and roads or keeping families safer from increasing gang violence,” he said.

The most recently published opinion polls, both produced late last year, showed Bridge’s National Party ahead but Labour, with its New Zealand First and Green Party allies could muster enough support to remain in power.

The election announcement comes just days before the government is to announce details of a NZ $12 billion ($7.85 billion) infrastructure spending package designed to stimulate the economy.

The New Zealand economy has struggled under low growth, while the cost of living has risen.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the infrastructure spend to be released this week will target roads, rail, schools and health care projects across the country.

ANZ Bank’s latest economic outlook said this would add to an “improved domestic outlook” and it expected the central bank to keep the official cash rate on hold at 1.0 percent for the foreseeable future.

The poll date avoids school holidays and All Blacks matches, which are said to have a bearing on election outcomes.