Washington, Sep 8 (IANS) The eye of the devastating category-5 hurricane Irma was moving near the Turks and Caicos Islands on Friday and continued tracking towards South Florida where it could slam Miami this weekend.
The hurricane was currently located about 85 km west-southwest of the Grand Turk Island and about 145 km off the eastern coast of the Great Inagua island in the Bahamas bringing with it maximum sustained winds of 280 km/h, reports Efe news.
The Turks and Caicos are a British overseas territory in the Caribbean with about 35,000 people.
Officials there are “working intensively on disaster preparedness and response … (and) liaising with their counterparts in the Cayman Islands for assistance,” CNN quoted UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Alan Duncan as saying Thursday night.
Although its intensity is expected to fluctuate in the next 48 hours, it will remain a “powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane” as it is moving towards the west and northwest at 26 km/h, weather experts warned.
Irma is then expected to move towards the northern part of Cuba and then Florida.
Don Dixon, a meteorologist at the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in Miami, told Efe news that it was still too early to say where the eye of Irma will make landfall in South Florida due to the variations that may occur, but it is very likely that Florida residents will begin to experience strong winds caused by the approaching Hurricane on Saturday afternoon.
Authorities have issued a hurricane and cyclone storm watch for the next 48 hours in the areas stretching from Jupiter Cove to Bonita Beach, including the Florida Keys, on the southern end of the state, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay.
Several parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, as well as the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Santo Espiritu and Villa Clara, are also under hurricane alert.
In Florida, residents in Monroe, Broward and parts of Miami-Dade counties have been told to evacuate due to the potentially catastrophic effects of Irma, the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history.
So far, Irma has killed at least 10 people after it made landfall early Wednesday morning in the Caribbean and hit the islands of Antigua and Barbuda and also left hundreds of thousands of customers in Puerto Rico without power.
Eleven tropical storms have formed so far in 2017, six of which converted into hurricanes.
During Irma’s passage through the Dominican Republic, heavy winds and rainfall wrecked several northern communities of the country, leading to extensive property damages.
Strong waves swept away eight houses located in the coastal neighbourhood of Playa Oeste in the Puerto Plata province, and knocked down three more in La Piedra, a small community in Los Charamicos.