CNN— The US Red Cross estimates that 1.2 million people have already been battered by the storm and warned that it poses a serious threat to millions more.
Irma is expected to remain at least a Category 4 hurricane until landfall in Florida this weekend, the hurricane center said. It issued hurricane and storm surge warnings for South Florida on Thursday night. Mandatory evacuations have been issued for many counties in South Florida, where residents have begun a mass exodus.
Here are the latest developments :
- Around 8 a.m. ET, Irma’s center was about 80 miles northeast of Cabo Lucrecia, Cuba, moving west-northwest with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. Hurricane-force winds could be felt as far as 70 miles from the center.
- Irma’s bands whipped the Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas overnight, and is forecast to move between the north coast of Cuba and the central Bahamas through Saturday.
- Irma led to at least 18 deaths in the Caribbean, including nine in French territories, one at the British overseas territory of Anguilla, one on Barbuda, four on the US Virgin Islands, and three in Puerto Rico. Officials didn’t specify which French Caribbean territories had nine deaths but earlier indicated some had been on the island of St. Martin.
- The three deaths in Puerto Rico were at least loosely linked to Irma. One person died from a fall while being taken to a shelter; another was killed in a car crash; a third died of electrocution, the governor said.
- Hurricane warnings are in effect for parts of Cuba, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the southeastern, central and northwestern Bahamas. Hurricane warnings also are in effect for South Florida, extending from Jupiter Inlet on the east coast, southward around the Florida Peninsula to Bonita Beach on the west. The warning includes the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay.
- The Red Cross said as many as 26 million people could be exposed to destructive winds and torrential rain just in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.
- Both the French and Dutch portions of the island of St. Martin are suffering looting in the wake of Irma, authorities said