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Hurricane Irma: Barbuda rebuilding could cost $100mn

Hurricane Irma is continuing to tear a deadly path through the Caribbean as the scale of devastation in its wake begins to emerge.

The hurricane battered several islands, including Barbuda, St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands.

Barbuda is said to be "barely habitable", while officials warn that the French-Dutch territory of St. Martin is almost destroyed.

Its winds, which have held at 185 miles an hour for 24 hours, are the strongest ever recorded in the open Atlantic Ocean.

Antigua and Barbuda bore the brunt of Irma’s early force, with the nation’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, saying that while Antigua had managed to avoid the storm’s worst blow, on Barbuda 95% of all structures were destroyed. 

Browne said it could take years and tens of millions of dollars to rebuild the island.

He said: “It could be in the region of $100mn, for a small state that is definitely beyond our means. We will have to approach the international community for some level of assistance.”

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Hollywood actor Robert de Niro has vowed to help Barbuda rebuild after Hurricane Irma left a trail of "absolute devastation" across the tiny Caribbean island.

According to Deadline, the two-time Oscar winner, who partially owned the Paradise Found Nobu Resort on the island, said in a statement: “We are beyond saddened to learn of the devastation in Barbuda caused from Hurricane Irma and look forward to working with the Paradise Found Nobu Resort team, the Barbuda Council, GOAB and the entire Barbuda community to successfully rebuild what nature has taken away from us.”

Much reconstruction is also predicted for the island of St. Martin.

France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said: “We know that the four most solid buildings on the island have been destroyed which means that more rustic structures have probably been completely or partially destroyed.”

Local official Daniel Gibbs confirmed this: "It's an enormous catastrophe - 95% of the island is destroyed." 

The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has said that damage on the island is severe and that the major ports and the airport cannot be reached.

Significant damage has been reported from the British Virgin Islands, where critical facilities, as well as homes, businesses and supermarkets, have been devastated.

Sam Branson, son of Virgin businessman Richard Branson – who saw out the storm in a bunker on his private island of Necker – said “a lot of buildings” had been destroyed.

The category 5 storm is set to continue moving through the Caribbean, and is predicted to make landfall in Florida at the weekend. Hurricane Harvey, by contrast, was a category 4 storm.

Rick Scott, Florida’s Governor, is already warning citizens of the danger posed by Irma and the damage likely to be sustained.

“Remember, we can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life,” he said.

Irma is so strong that it appeared on seismometers, which normally measure earthquakes.

“The dangerousness of this event is like nothing we’ve ever seen,” the Puerto Rico governor, Ricardo Rossello, said. “A lot of infrastructure won’t be able to withstand this kind of force.”

Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, echoed this sentiment. “Power infrastructure is very, very fragile and we are expecting to be without power for the next four to six months,” she said.

As Hurricane Irma rages on, the full extent of the damage is yet to be revealed. One thing that is certain is that work to rebuild the communities in its path with take many years.

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