Hurricane Irma regained strength to a category 4 storm on Sunday as it began pummelling Florida and threatening landfall within hours.
The eye of the category 4 storm slammed into the lower Florida Keys and was 24 kilometres southeast of Key West as of 7am. The storm was expected to move along or near Florida’s southwest Gulf coast later on Sunday and into Monday.
Authorities in the state have ordered more than 6 million people to evacuate.
At least 25 people have been killed since Irma began its devastating march through the Caribbean earlier this week.
It made landfall in Cuba’s Camaguey archipelago late on Friday.
A second category 4 hurricane, Jose, followed part of Irma’s track, but spared the storm-hit Caribbean islands of St Martin and St Barts, which had already suffered catastrophic damage from Irma.
Jose is expected to veer north and pose no threat to the United States.
The death toll from Irma stands at 25 — 12 on the French island of St Barts and the Dutch-French territory of St Martin; six on the British Caribbean islands; at least four on 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, and the figure could rise to 26 million.
The bill for loss and damage could hit $120 billion (Sh12 trillion) in the United States and the Caribbean, according to data modelling firm Enki Research.
Irma hit the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda on Wednesday with winds of up to 295 kilometres per hour. The island suffered “absolute devastation”, with up to 30 per cent of properties demolished, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.
A child is known to have died on the island of 1,600 residents.
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 of the island, while the Netherlands said the storm killed two on the Dutch side, called Sint Maarten.
On the Dutch side, 70 per cent of the infrastructure has been destroyed.
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 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 said.
Two people were killed in the US territory of Puerto Rico, and more than half of its 3 million residents were without power after rivers broke their banks in the centre and north of the island.
At the same time, 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 with 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, knocking down power lines, uprooting trees and ripping the roofs off homes.
Authorities said they had evacuated more than a million people as a precaution.
One of the most powerful hurricanes ever to slam storm-prone Florida, Irma is threatening dangerous storm surges