Hurricane Irma prompts evacuation of Portuguese holidaymakers in Cuba and ‘Dom Rep’

With Hurricane Irma cutting a devastating swathe through the Caribbean, Portuguese ‘casualties’ are being relocated in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, while a young Portuguese woman has been telling journalists of her fears for the safety of her mother, sister and other relatives – all of whom moved to the Caribbean some years ago.

According to tabloid Correio da Manhã, the 18-year-old’s family has been “uncontactable” since last (Wednesday).

The young woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, claims her loved ones would have been “in the eye” of the hurricane on the island of St Barts.

“The area where my mother lives, in Vitet, is considered one of the safest places”, she says, adding that in Flamand where her aunt and other relatives live “some inhabitants received orders to evacuate”.

The aunt, however, did not enter a shelter as she was in her sister’s house (in Vitet).

“Since then I haven’t heard a word”, said the worried teen, aware nonetheless that all the island’s utilities went down in the thick of the hurricane.

CM adds that St Barts – although French – is known for its “large Portuguese community”.

This (Thursday) morning the full scale of damage to the island was not known. It is expected to be of “large proportions”, says the paper, while TSF radio has reported that at least two people on the island are known to have died, while elsewhere another six fatalities have been reported.

So far, Irma has hit the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, St Barts, St Martin and Anguilla.

Described as an “extremely dangerous” category 5 storm (the highest on the Saffir-Simpson scale), it is on its way towards Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and ultimately the US mainland, where it is estimated to hit Florida on Saturday – a state with a Portuguese population of around 70,000.

The horror of Irma is that it is one of the strongest storms ever to have been recorded over the Atlantic, and it has not shown any sign yet of becoming significantly less dangerous.

Says the New York Times, “the eye of the storm was bigger than some Caribbean islands as it moved directly over the island of Barbuda on Wednesday”.

Consulates are removing holidaymakers from ‘far flung locations’ in Cuba and the Dominican Republic to more central areas before Irma hits.

The Portuguese government estimates that of the 30,000 tourists currently on holiday in the Caribbean, as many as a thousand could be Portuguese.

Secretary of State for the Communities José Luís Carneiro has told TSF radio that 240 Portuguese residents are registered in St Barts, and 54 in Martinique.

All efforts are being made to keep lines of communication open, he said, adding that the consulate is already aware of the reports of the ‘missing family’ in St Barts.

Meantime, more bad news explains that storms “José” and “Kátia” also travelling the Atlantic have now been upgraded to hurricane status.

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