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Britons evacuated as Hurricane Irma hits

Britons evacuated as Hurricane Irma hits

Puerto Rico, which was battered by high winds on Tuesday, lies directly in Irma's path
Britons in the Caribbean and Florida have been urged to follow evacuation orders as the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade heads towards them.The Foreign Office warned that Hurricane Irma would bring hazardous conditions to Puerto Rico and parts of the Caribbean from Wednesday and to Florida on Friday.Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency as it prepares to be hit.British Airways sent an aircraft to collect 326 customers on Tuesday.Thousands of travellers had their holiday plans thrown into chaos as airlines were forced to ground or divert flights
BA said that with Antigua and St Kitts airports closed on Wednesday, no further relief flights had been planned."We are making sure our customers are well looked after in their hotels and are constantly monitoring the situation and liaising with the airport authorities in the region," a spokesman said. San Juan airport, the busiest in Puerto Rico, has cancelled about 40% of its flights in response to the hurricane.The category five hurricane, the highest possible level, has sustained wind speeds reaching 300km/h (185mph).Six islands in the Bahamas are being evacuated on Wednesday.
Eye of the storm
Sir Richard Branson said the eye of the storm was "coming straight for us" at his private Necker Island, but he refuses to leave.Writing in his blog he said: "We had some lovely guests staying on Necker Island who have cut their trip short for safety reasons, and another group of guests have also postponed."Though he admitted "almost nothing" could withstand a storm of Irma's force, he said he had constructed "really strong" buildings on the island and would stay there with his staff.
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Officials in the Leeward Islands, which include Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St Christopher Nevis, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands, have reportedly cut power and urged residents to seek shelter in a statement that ended: "May God protect us all."The hurricane has started to hit the islands and will move on towards Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.The eye of the storm hit the island of Barbuda, which has a population of about 2,000 people, shortly after 01:00 local time (05:00 GMT).
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.She said: "The winds are starting to pick up and the clouds are coming in."It's going to be the strongest hurricane ever to cross the Atlantic. I've no idea what to expect."In the Bahamas, holidaymakers at luxury resorts were told they would be moved away from coastal areas to emergency shelters.Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said his government was flying residents out of the six islands in the south in what he called the largest storm evacuation in the country's history.Newlyweds Paul and Lorraine Phipps were celebrating their two-week honeymoon at a Sandals resort on the archipelago as forecasters raised Irma's classification.Mr Phipps, from Essex, said: "With the Bahamas being laid back there is no panic on the resort, the resort management team are meeting daily to discuss contingencies and will communicate once decisions have been made."During the hurricane we will either be moved to a building away from the beach front or moved to a centre downtown."Are you in the region? If you are a holidaymaker unable to get a flight home or a resident who has been preparing for Hurricane Irma share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.
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