Hurricane Irma Wreaks Major Damage in Caribbean
Hurricane Irma has destroyed buildings and caused major flooding on several French island territories in the Caribbean.
The four "most solid" buildings on Saint Martin, shared by France and the Netherlands, were destroyed, French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said.
Power cuts there and on Saint Barthélemy disrupted communications.
The category five hurricane, the highest possible level, has sustained wind speeds reaching 300km/h (185mph).
The most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade first hit Antigua and Barbuda, before moving on to Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy (also known as St Barts).
It is expected to move on towards Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. In the US, Florida's Key West area has ordered a mandatory evacuation, with landfall expected at the weekend.
The French government said earlier it was worried about thousands of people who had refused to seek shelter on the islands.
There was no immediate news of possible casualties but officials in the nearby French territory of Guadeloupe confirmed the following damage:
- On St Barts, the fire brigade station has been flooded with a metre of water, with engines out of service and crews sheltering on an upper floor; there is a total power blackout; many roofs have been blown off
- On Saint Martin, the prefecture building has been partially destroyed, with the prefect (chief officer) and 23 other people sheltering in a secure room; the fire station is out of order; there is a power blackout; several roofs at the police station have been blown off
France's interior minister said three emergency teams were being sent to the islands, two from France and one from Guadeloupe.