The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has expressed sympathy for the loss of life and hardship following the passage of Hurricane Irma and has urged Caribbean residents and visitors in the projected path of the storm to take continued precautions as it makes its way through parts of the northern Caribbean.
CHTA's Director General Frank Comito warned that the Category 5 hurricane was packing winds of 180 miles per hour, and the effects of the storm were already evident on the dual-island of St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Barthélemy (St. Barts), and Barbuda, where, according to reports, widespread damage has been sustained.
According to reports received by CHTA, Antigua was spared Irma's brunt and the V.C. Bird International Airport is now open. The storm passed to the north of St. Kitts and Nevis with initial reports indicating the Federation had escaped the worst.
Casualties on Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barts and Barbuda, have been reported at this time; electricity and communications are down on several islands and the full extent of the damage is not yet known. Resorts throughout the affected areas in the region, including those on nearby islands in Irma's projected path, have instituted emergency hurricane protocols.
"We are extremely saddened to learn that we lost life during the past 24 hours and we stand with our Caribbean brothers and sisters at this time," Comito said. "We are keeping everyone in our thoughts and prayers, including family, friends and residents of Florida, which has declared a state of emergency. The Caribbean people are resilient and we are resolved to work with our partners to restore lives and communities."
All hurricane warnings have now been discontinued for Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Saba, St. Barthélemy, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Maarten/St. Martin, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Officials in countries and territories in the southern and western Caribbean not impacted by Hurricane Irma have expressed their concern and support to the affected areas. CHTA reports it will be mounting an appeal to assist communities in need as assessments from the region's stakeholders are received.
As of Thursday at 8 a.m. AST, Irma was moving west-northwest off the northern coast of Hispaniola, heading for the Turks and Caicos Islands. A hurricane warning is in effect for the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and The Bahamas. Updates and advisories for Hurricane Irma are available from the National Hurricane Center website.