Tourists hide in hotel stairwells as Hurricane Irma hits

  • Are youcaught up in hurricane chaos? Email kelly.mclaughlin@mailonline.co.uk or call 0203 615 2676
  • Hundreds of tourists have had holidays thrown into chaos as Hurricane Irma bears down on the Caribbean
  • UK tourists and ex-pats tweeted about their status in the Caribbean and Florida as evacuations were ordered
  • Some had their holidays canceled, others were flown home and some are still stranded in the Caribbean  
  • The hurricane’s 185mph winds have broken weather recording equipment in the Atlantic Ocean 

Tourists have been left cowering in their hotels as the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history sweeps through the Caribbean.

The 185mph Hurricane Irma made its first landfall in the islands of the north-east of the region this morning, destroying buildings and hurling heavy debris at high speed.

Holidaymakers on Caribbean islands have barricaded themselves into hotels and villas as authorities in other areas order mass evacuations.

British tourist Alex Woolfall, who is staying in St Maarten, told how he and other visitors to the isle huddled in the concrete stairwell of their hotel as the ‘apocalyptic’ noise of the winds roared outside.

He tweeted: ‘Still thunderous sonic boom noises outside & boiling in stairwell. Can feel scream of things being hurled against building.’ 

This was the scene of devastation in St Martin, the northern half of St Maarten, after the storm ripped through this morning

This was the scene of devastation in St Martin, the northern half of St Maarten, after the storm ripped through this morning

The record winds of Urma lash San Juan, Puerto Rico. Tourists are being flown out of the Caribbean by British Airways

The record winds of Urma lash San Juan, Puerto Rico. Tourists are being flown out of the Caribbean by British Airways

The high winds caused flash flooding in St Maarten, where many tourists were stranded in upper floors of their hotels

The high winds caused flash flooding in St Maarten, where many tourists were stranded in upper floors of their hotels

The high winds caused flash flooding in St Maarten, where many tourists were stranded in upper floors of their hotels

Alex Woolfall told how he and other hotel guests were huddled in a hotel stairwell as the storm battered the building

Meanwhile Victoria Adams is frantically trying to leave the Turks and Caicos Islands

Alex Woolfall (left) told how he and other hotel guests were huddled in a hotel stairwell as the storm battered the building. Meanwhile Victoria Adams (right) is frantically trying to leave the Turks and Caicos Islands

Mr Woolfall gave a graphic account of the ordeal at his hotel as the storm passed over the island this morning

Mr Woolfall gave a graphic account of the ordeal at his hotel as the storm passed over the island this morning

Hurricane Irma - the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history - made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean today and will sweep through the region this week

Hurricane Irma – the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history – made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean today and will sweep through the region this week

Telling of his ordeal online, Mr Woolfall tweeted: ’04:30 now in St Maarten & building shaking and howling winds. Scary stuff but still have power.

‘Evacuated & everyone now hiding in concrete stairwell of building. Noise of wind insane. Pray this will end soon! 

‘Okay I am now pretty terrified so can every non-believer, atheist & heretic please pray for me in St Maarten as Hurricane Irma is here now… what they don’t tell you in a hurricane is how HOT it is! Jeez. Am boiling!’

ARE YOU OR IS SOMEONE YOU KNOW AFFECTED BY HURRICANE IRMA? 

Call 0203 615 2676 or email kelly.mclaughlin@mailonline.co.uk

He later added: ‘May be my last tweet as power out and noise now apocalyptic. This is like a movie I never want to see.

‘My God this noise! It’s like standing behind a jet engine!! Constant booms & bangs. At least concrete stairwell not moving.

‘Still thunderous sonic boom noises outside & boiling in stairwell. Can feel scream of things being hurled against building.’

Florida resident Loren Ann Mayo, who is on a business trip to Marigot, St Martin, said in a video posted on Facebook that she had been ‘hiding out in the bathroom’ of her wind-battered and flooded hotel suite.

US tourist Virginia Barreras meanwhile is in a hotel in the north of the island, told CNN: ‘The palm trees are bent over and (I) can’t see anything but white… The walls shake when the wind blows hard, and we can hear debris being thrown around.’

London public affair worker Victoria Adams is stuck on the Turks and Caicos Islands, where she is desperately trying to find a flight away from.

She told the Evening Standard: ‘I am so scared right now. I don’t know what to do if I have to stay.’

Another tourist, who wanted to remain anonymous, told MailOnline that he and his partner have been left stranded on the island of Turks and Caicos after British Airways didn’t evacuate them or advise them on what precautions to take amid Hurricane Irma.

His partner DM’d British Airways on Twitter, but had to wait nine hours for a response – and was then only told to check online for updates.

‘To find out that customers in Antigua were looked after and we were left in the dark is distraughting considering TCI has reached category 5,’ he said. ‘Clearly our safety is not a BA priority.’

Briton Carolyne Coleby, who runs a guest house on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, said locals were desperately trying to secure their houses with boards and remove any potential debris from outside spaces. 

Ms Coleby said: ‘People are now just boarding up and clearing their gardens of any potential flying objects,’ she said.

‘I had a sleepless night. I was very worried – I spent the night on the internet. It’s going to be the strongest hurricane ever to cross the Atlantic. I’ve no idea what to expect.’ 

British Airways sent an empty aircraft to the region to bring customers back early – the full flight of 326 passengers touched down in the UK on Tuesday evening. The airline also cancelled a flight from the UK heading to Antigua and then on to Tobago.

Trevor Webb and his wife were on board the last flight from Antigua. He told MailOnline: ‘We were in the process of being relocated from our beach front hotel to another stronger-structured hotel, when the rep mentioned that if we rushed to the airport we could be put on stand by. 

‘We jumped in a cab and thankfully we were the last of the passengers able to board the flight.’ 

Puerto Rico, which handles a lot of transfer flights to the Caribbean, has declared a state of emergency, as has the US state of Florida. 

Antigua airport will be closed on Wednesday and San Juan airport, the busiest in Puerto Rico, has cancelled about 40 per cent of its flights in response to the hurricane.

A representative for BA told MailOnline: ‘The safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.

‘We are in contact with travellers in Antigua and have laid on a special flight today to get as many home as possible before the hurricane arrives on the island.

‘The Antigua and St Kitts airport authorities have advised us that their airports will be closed tomorrow. We have offered all customers due to travel to the Caribbean and Florida in the coming days a range of re-booking options and are keeping our flights to the entire region under review.?’ 

Hotel workers in the resort of Marigot fill sand bags as holiday islands go into lockdown before the Hurricane sweeps in

Hotel workers in the resort of Marigot fill sand bags as holiday islands go into lockdown before the Hurricane sweeps in

Meanwhile in the US, supermarkets have been inundated with panicked shoppers. These in Costco in Miami are pictured queuing for bottled water

Meanwhile in the US, supermarkets have been inundated with panicked shoppers. These in Costco in Miami are pictured queuing for bottled water

Virgin Atlantic also changed its return schedules, and a flight leaving Antigua on Tuesday left five hours early to avoid the storm.

The airline urged all customers to check the status of their flight before leaving for the airport, and offered all those affected by the storm the option to rebook their flights on alternative dates.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office told Britons to follow the advice of the local authorities and any evacuation orders.

Several UK tourists and citizens living abroad have tweeted about their status in the Caribbean and Florida.

Some said that their holidays had been canceled, while others were stranded on islands and in Florida.  

Jessica Thiel, a UK citizen and Florida resident, wrote on Twitter: ‘Talk about peperation… Gainesville is already out of water.’

‘Only we would pick a date to go on holiday when a hurricane is meant to hit,’ another Twitter user wrote.

The Briton was supposed to fly to Cuba through Thomas Cook on Wednesday morning. He said that he is unable to get a refund for the trip.

A woman named Hazel responded saying she was also struggling to get a refund for her trip to Cuba.

In Bayamon, Puerto Rico, locals flocked to hardware stores to buy boards to cover their homes before the storm hits

In Bayamon, Puerto Rico, locals flocked to hardware stores to buy boards to cover their homes before the storm hits

Residents in Florida barricade their homes ahead of the storm hits the US peninsula popular with Brits later this week

Residents in Florida barricade their homes ahead of the storm hits the US peninsula popular with Brits later this week

The hurricane passed over the island of Barbuda today and will move west towards holiday islands and Florida this week

The hurricane passed over the island of Barbuda today and will move west towards holiday islands and Florida this week

Meanwhile, local residents stocked-up on emergency supplies and tried to secure their houses from the oncoming hurricane.

Earlier in the day The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Irma had sustained winds of 175mph and was centered about 270 miles east of Antigua. It was moving west at 14mph.

WHEN WILL IRMA HIT?

Leeward Islands: Wednesday. Tropical storm-force winds started yesterday

Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands: Wednesday to early Thursday

Dominican Republic/Haiti: Thursday to early Friday

Turks and Caicos: Late Thursday to Friday

Bahamas: Friday to this weekend

Cuba: Friday to this weekend

Southeast United States: This weekend into early next week, beginning in south Florida on Saturday

SOURCE: Weather.com

The center said there was a growing possibility that the storm’s effects would be felt in Florida later this week and over the weekend, though it was still too early to be sure of its future track: ‘Everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place.’

Irma’s winds were 185 mph Tuesday, a strong Category 5 storm, and forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said it could strengthen more as it neared the eastern-most Caribbean islands.

The storm had the most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean.

Irma’s center was expected to move near or over the northern Leeward Islands late Tuesday and early Wednesday, the hurricane center said. The eye was then expected to pass about 50 miles from Puerto Rico late Wednesday.

Authorities warned that the storm could dump up to 10 inches of rain, cause landslides and flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet.

President Donald Trump declared states of emergency in Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands on Tuesday ahead of potentially devastating Hurricane Irma’s strike.

The move allows federal assistance funds to be deployed so that authorities can better handle emergencies in their areas.

Trump’s declaration ‘authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (and) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts,’ a White House statement read.

‘This action will help alleviate the hardship and suffering that the emergency may inflict on the local population, and provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures.’

Risk: British Airways was forced to cancel its morning flight from London to Antigua, today, shortly after the hurricane was upgraded to a category five - the most dangerous

Risk: British Airways was forced to cancel its morning flight from London to Antigua, today, shortly after the hurricane was upgraded to a category five – the most dangerous

 

 






Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

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