Hurricane Irma menaced Cuba and the Bahamas on Friday as it drove toward Florida after lashing the Caribbean with devastatingly high winds, killing 19 people and leaving catastrophic destruction in its wake.
As Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, bore down on Florida, Governor Rick Scott issued a stark warning to residents to get out if they were in evacuation zones.
"We are running out of time. If you are in an evacuation zone, you need to go now. This is a catastrophic storm like our state has never seen," Scott told reporters, adding the storm's effects would be felt from coast to coast.
Erosion of Miami Beach
Meanwhile, another "Hurricane Hunter" plane takes off
Trump's plans this weekend
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, says that the president will hold his fourth full cabinet meeting on Saturday, at Camp David.
The White House press briefing: price gouging?
The homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, says that there may be a temporary rise in fuel prices due to plants in Houston being shut down - but that is not the same as price gouging.
In case anyone missed me last time - gouging won't be tolerated. Period. Period.
Terrorist threat increased?
Mr Bossert says that it is wrong to see the security of the US as weakened right now.
"No one should see us as vulnerable right now. That is the farthest from the truth.
"There is no current, credible, actionable threat right now.
"And if we do learn of it we communicate that to the law enforcement agencies."
White House press briefing: fuel shortages
Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser, is being asked about fuel shortages.
We saw those same fuel shortages in Texas because people gas-up their generators, cars and so on. So what are we doing? We’re beginning as much fuel in as possible.
And we’ve waived an act – the Jones Act – that prevents foreign flagged vessels moving fuel. So now as many tankers as possible are being brought to bear, and that’s the best we can do for the moment.
At some point they’ll have to stop those operations. That’s not tough love – that’s clarity.
At some point they’ll be on their own.
Tom Bossert, Homeland Security Adviser, discusses federal preparations
The White House press briefing is beginning.
Mr Bossert says the government is "fully engaged in support of the governors".
He says Florida, South Carolina and Georgia are engaged in the final stages of preparation - but that doesn't mean that the reconstruction efforts in Texas, following Harvey, are slowing.
Please listen to your local authorities.
You need to evacuate from south to north – that is a staggered and carefully thought-out process.
It's an oxygen mask scenario. Take care of yourself first, then your loved ones, and if you can take care of others.
There has been a lot of media coverage of Florida, but not necessarily the Virgin Islands. They are experiencing loss of power, loss of water, loss of communications.
So what we are doing is sending in air and surface operations to evacuate citizens. We’re also doing that in St Martin.
The numbers are ranging from 300-6,000.
We are evacuating those American citizens. And also those with acute critical medical needs.
Police in West Palm Beach order evacuation
Patrol cars are circulating in West Palm Beach, making announcements via loud haler.
"Attention - you are in a mandatory evacuation zone. Please leave now."
Images from inside the eye of the storm
Trump approves state of emergency in Georgia
The White House has just issued a statement.
"Today, President Donald J. Trump declared that an emergency exists in the State of Georgia and ordered Federal assistance to supplement State and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from Hurricane Irma beginning on September 7, 2017, and continuing.
The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.
This action will help alleviate the hardship and suffering that the emergency may inflict on the local population, and provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property, and ensure public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe."
The ruling applies to the following counties:
Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Camden, Candler, Charlton, Chatham, Clinch, Coffee, Echols, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Glynn, Jenkins, Jeff Davis, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Ware.
US government "Hurricane Hunters" continue to recce the storm
More from Rick Scott, governor of Florida
Mr Scott says efforts are being made to keep fuel supplies flowing.
He says everyone should have three days of water, and their supplies of prescription medicines.
"I know the entire country is behind us. The president is behind us. And we have the best first responders.
"But we are running out of time.
"This is a catastrophic storm the likes of which we have never seen before.
"Florida is tough, Florida is resilient, and I'm proud to be governor of this great state."
Florida governor giving an update on situation
Rick Scott is speaking now.
His message is the same as in previous days:
"If you're in South Florida, you need to leave now."
- Asks Floridians not to purchase more fuel than needed
- Reminds them they can go to local shelter; they don't have to leave state
- Calls for more volunteers - volunteerflorida.org
- Says absolutely no reason not to evacuate
For residents in the Caribbean, Hurricane Jose will be "nothing compared to what they already went through"
Meteorology director Jeff Masters at Weather Underground says Hurricane Jose, now a Category 4 storm, will hamper relief efforts on Barbuda, St Martin and Anguila but won't be as violent as Hurricane Irma.
Instead, the islands will mostly suffer tropical storm force winds and heavy rain.
Dutch government: two dead and 43 wounded on the Dutch part of Saint Martin
The Dutch government has increased its estimate of casualties caused on the Dutch part of the island of Saint Martin to two dead, one of natural causes, and 43 wounded.
Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk also said at a press conference that 11 of the wounded are critical condition.
Two hundred Dutch soldiers are helping those on the island as it struggles to restore order to its airport and main harbour so that it can receive more aid.
British six month-old triplets among the youngest survivors of Irma
Six month-olds Charlotte, Isabella and Beatrice are among the youngest to survive the hurricane, who were caught up in 185mph winds on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.
The girls are being kept safe by their parents Kate Jackson, 33, and Alex Ashman, 31, in the safest part of their family's island home. The couple contacted Kate's sister Claire in Manchester to update her on their safety, however most of their Tortola home has been turned to rubble in the storm.
Donald Trump: Hurricane has "absolutely historic destructive potential"
Donald Trump has warned of Hurricane Irma's destructive potential in a videotaped statement as the Category four storm moves toward Florida, where it is expected to make landfall on Sunday morning.
Urging residents in the storm's path to heed the government's recommendations, he said: "This is a storm of absolutely historic destructive potential. I ask everyone in the storm's path to be vigilant and to heed all recommendations from government officials and law enforcement."
The Queen to make 'significant personal donation' to Irma appeal
Buckingham Palace said the Queen will be making a significant personal donation to the Hurricane Irma appeal organised by the British Red Cross.
'All Floridians should be prepared to evacuate soon'
Florida Governor Rick Scott has Friday that all of the state's 20 million inhabitants should be prepared to evacuate as Hurricane Irma bears down for a direct hit.
"Do not ignore evacuation orders," he said. "Remember, we can rebuild your home, we can't rebuild your life. All Floridians should be prepared to evacuate soon."
Now Hurricane Jose strengthens into category four storm
Hurricane Jose has gained in strength and intensified into an "extremely dangerous" category four hurricane on, the US National Hurricane Centre said in its latest advisory on Friday.
Jose is about 435 miles east-southeast of the Northern Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 150mph , the Miami-based weather forecaster said.
Battening down the hatches: Today is last day to evacuate South Florida before 'unsafe winds'
The National Weather Service said that Friday is the last day to evacuate south Florida before winds would start to reach unsafe speeds.
Airlines added extra flights from Florida on Thursday before announcing plans to halt service from some southern Florida airports from Friday afternoon.
Tom Price, the US Health and Human Services Secretary, called Irma a "remarkably dangerous storm and the window to get yourself in the right spot... is closing rapidly".
'Get out now': Advice to Americans in path of Irma
Brock Long, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) chief, offered some advice for people in the path of Hurricane Irma who have been ordered to evacuate: Get out now.
Speaking in Washington on Friday, Mr Long said no one in Florida has experienced a storm with the intensity of what is now bearing down on the state.
He said there is "a lot of certainty in this forecast" and the winds and storm surge from the storm will be "devastating".
Long said those in low-lying areas who have been told to evacuate "need to get out and heed the warning".
More than 8,000 FEMA staff have been deployed to prepare for Irma and help with the continuing recovery effort from Hurricane Harvey, which caused massive flooding in southeastern Texas last week.
Which areas are under mandatory evacuation orders in Florida?
The seven cities under mandatory evacuation orders in Florida are:
- South Bay
- Lake Harbor
- Moore Haven
- Belle Glade
- Canal Point
How might Irma compare to other US hurricanes?
America has experienced only three category five storms since 1851 and - even though it has now been downgraded to category four - Irma is far larger than the last one to hit the United States in 1992, Hurricane Andrew.
The table below shows the toll from some of the largest recent US storms:
Florida man gives shop's last generator to crying woman
Pam Brekke, a Florida resident, had spent days scouring empty shops in the desperate hope of finding a generator ahead of the hurricane. Her father is on oxygen and she feared what could happen in the storm knocked out their power, reports Mike Wright.
It looked as if she’d been thrown a lifeline when Lowe’s store in the Conway area of Orlando received an unexpected delivery of 216 generators. So she hurriedly made the 30-mile journey from her home in Sanford - only to discover she had just missed out.
Distraught, she burst into tears. But then she was approached by another customer, Ramon Santiago, who had managed to get one of the last generators. Seeing her distress, he insisted she take his unit. Click here to read their story.
Forecaster: Irma is an entirely different level of phenomenon
For an entire generation in South Florida, Hurricane Andrew was the definition of a monster storm.
But for those who led victims through that devastating aftermath, Hurricane Irma is looking far worse by nearly every measure.
Bryan Norcross, a Weather Channel senior hurricane specialist, was a local television meteorologist hailed as a hero back then.
He said Irma's impact on Florida will be much greater - "an entirely different level of phenomenon."
Irma tracks down Cuba after tourists and residents flee coastal resorts
With Irma beginning to track down the Cuba, thousands of tourists have already been evacuated from low-lying keys off the coast in anticipation of 20ft storm surges.
Coaches loaded with tourists began streaming out of Santa Maria, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and other keys dotted with all-inclusive resorts on Thursday.
All residents of the area were under mandatory evacuation orders from the Cuban government, which was moving tens of thousands of people from vulnerable coastline.
Mapped: Donald Trump's resorts in the path of Irma
After Donald Trump's warning to Americans, here is a reminder of the US President's resorts that are in the path of the hurricane:
Donald Trump: Irma is epic... be safe and get out of its way
US President Donald Trump has urged Americans to get out of the way of Hurricane Irma, calling it an "epic" storm as other officials warned time was running out for people living its path to escape its wrath:
Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen. Be safe and get out of its way,if possible. Federal G is ready!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2017
He also praised the work of the US Coastguard for which Irma "could be even tougher" than Storm Harvey:
Our incredible U.S. Coast Guard saved more than 15,000 lives last week with Harvey. Irma could be even tougher. We love our Coast Guard!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2017
Florida residents queue for water, fuel and sandbags
As South Florida fell under hurricane warnings, petrol shortages, empty shop shelves and traffic gridlock plagued thousands of people fleeing for high ground ahead of Irma.
More than a half-million people have been ordered to evacuate to escape the category five hurricane tracking towards the state - and that volume turned normally simple trips into tests of will.
Carmen Pardo and her six-year-old daughter, Valeria, drove around Miami for seven hours, frantically searching for somewhere to fill up their fuel tank to evacuate. They found nothing.
"She was saying, 'Mummy I'm so tired, I can't do this anymore,'" she said. "It was craziness."
Ms Pardo booked the only flight she could find leaving the city, to Orlando, where she reserved two seats on a bus bound for Tallahassee on Friday. "It's the beginning of an adventure," she said.
More than 100,000 people may need shelter in US
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said US officials were preparing a massive response to Hurricane Irma, which is set to hit Florida as early as Saturday.
"Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States in either Florida or some of the southeastern states," FEMA Administrator Brock Long said at a news briefing on Friday.
He warned that parts of Florida would be out of electricity for days if not longer and that more than 100,000 people may need shelter.
Irma is going to 'devastate US', with electricity 'out for days in Florida'
America's Federal Emergency Management Agency has been giving an update on the risk of Irma.
A chief said the storm is "going to devastate the United States" and warned that electricity in parts of Florida "will be out for days if not longer" after it hits.
Video diary: Woman describes devastation caused by Irma
In this video diary, Helen Richardson shows how buildings have been flattened and floodlights come crashing down after Hurricane Irma battered the Dominican Republic.
Downing Street defends UK response to Irma
Downing Street has defended its response to Hurricane Irma after criticism it did not do enough to prepare for the disaster.
The move comes as Prime Minister Theresa May was holding another meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee on Friday to co-ordinate relief efforts for victims of the hurricane.
Mrs May's spokeswoman dismissed criticism that the UK lagged behind France and the Netherlands in taking care of its territories in the path of the hurricane.
She told a Westminster briefing: "We believe our response was swift. We had a ship pre-positioned. We are getting lifesaving aid now to those who need it."
Downing Street said that the Department for International Development's disaster response centre was sending out supplies of aid to be loaded on to HMS Ocean, which has been diverted from the Mediterranean to head for the Caribbean to help with the disaster relief efforts.
St-Martin looting: 'There are people with guns and machetes... no one is in charge'
Hundreds of extra police are being sent to St-Martin after reports of people breaking into shops following the devastation of Hurricane Irma.
The storm that tore through the popular holiday island has led to major shortages of water, petrol and food.
Speaking to the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, one witness said: "There are people with guns and machetes in the street. It's really serious. No one is in charge."
French Overseas Territories Minister Annick Girardin said "pillaging took place right in front of us" during a trip to St Martin, where a majority of the 80,000 inhabitants have lost their homes.
Around 400 police officers would be sent to the French side of the island and to the nearby territory of St Barthelemy, she said at a press briefing on Thursday.
Three RAF planes heading to British territories in Caribbean
Three RAF planes are due to begin ferrying troops and equipment from Brize Norton to hard-hit British territories later on Friday, reports Defence Correspondent Ben Farmer.
A C-17 transporter carrying engineers, Royal Marines, medics, logistics experts and emergency aid will be followed by a Voyager carrying 180 personnel. Both planes will fly to Barbados before troops are dispatched onwards.
An A400M transporter will fly later, possibly direct to the British Virgin Islands.
More aircraft, including a c-17 carrying two Puma helicopters, are expected to follow at the weekend.
The RAF said Chinook helicopters were also being flown to Gibraltar to meet HMS Ocean before it sails across the Atlantic.
Meanwhile, engineers and Marines deployed on RFA Mounts Bay have disembarked on Anguilla to begin repairing local government buildings and ferrying stores ashore.
'I am truly heartbroken', says governor of British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands, which saw houses reduced to their foundations and many roads impassable following the "devastating" storm, has declared a state of emergency.
Governor Gus Jaspert told how he was “heartbroken” by reports of casualties. In a message on Facebook, he said:
"I come to you with a heavy heart after experiencing and observing the extent of devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.
"After consultation with the Premier I have declared a state of emergency for the territory. Radio and other communication channels are extremely limited.
"All of us have been affected by Irma and some more than others. Apart from the structural damage, there have sadly been reports of casualties and fatalities. I am truly heartbroken by this news. My thoughts and prayers are with each and every one of you.
"I know many of you are concerned about what will happen in the short term over the next couple of hours and days. I would like to appeal to you to remain calm and to reassure you that we are doing all that we can to assist you."
Governor's video message on Facebook
Before and after: how Hurricane Irma devastated Saint-Martin
Miami still lies directly in Irma's path
The National Hurricane Centre has released an updated map of Irma's path and timings of impact.
Miami still lies directly in the path of the hurricane, with strong winds likely to arrive in the Keys and South Florida late on Saturday.
Extra troops sent in to 'restore order'
Looting is a "serious" problem on the Dutch part of the hurricane-hit island of St Martin, with troops seeking to restore order, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday.
"The situation is serious," he said when asked about looting, adding that authorities were being hampered in dealing with it as communications were cut off.
Extra troops and police are arriving on the southern part of the island, which is shared between France and the Netherlands, and part of their job is to help keep order, officials said.
The badly damaged airport and port have now "been opened for military purposes," Mr Rutte told reporters, adding "we are doing everything possible to get aid to the area."
Video aired on Dutch television appeared to show looting:
Looting of food and water reported on Saint-Martin
France's government is reporting looting of televisions and other goods on the Caribbean island of Saint-Martin after it was hammered by Hurricane Irma, as warships and military planes ferry police and rescue crews to the site.
Annick Girardin, minister for France's overseas territories, described on BFM television on Friday "scenes of pillaging" of televisions as well as food and water.
She lamented "how people can take advantage of the distress of others" and said it is essential for police to restore order and ensure urgent care for victims.
The French government said four people are confirmed dead and about 50 injured on the French side of Saint-Martin. Another death was reported on the Dutch side of the shared island.
French military spokesman Colonel Patrik Steiger said two French frigates are expected to arrive on St. Martin on Friday and military transport planes and helicopters are bringing in personnel and aid to the local population from the nearby French island of Guadeloupe.
Irma weakens to category four storm - but remains 'powerful' with 155mph winds
Hurricane Irma has weakened to a category four storm, it has been announced, but remains a "powerful" hurricane.
The US National Hurricane Centre said Irma's maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 155mph.
The hurricane centre said some fluctuations in strength are likely over the next day or two, but Irma is expected to stay a category four storm.
Early on Friday, the hurricane was centered about 55 miles northwest of Great Inagua Island and 495 miles southeast of Miami.
What to do if you are travelling to the Caribbean or Florida
Pregnant British woman and her sister both found safe on Barbuda
Here's some good news. Two sisters feared missing on Barbuda after losing contact with their family in the storm have been found safe. They had gone to help with the massive voluntary evacuation effort on the wrecked island. Click here to read more.
Up to 26 million people could be affected by Irma, says Red Cross
So far, 1.2 million people have been affected by Hurricane Irma, the International Red Cross said.
But that number looks set to rise sharply - possibly reaching as many as 26 million, it said.
There are fears that disease could spread in areas where drinking water and sanitation have broken down.
Officials have also warned that the death toll in the Caribbean is expected to rise.
Turks and Caicos official warns of inundation from rain and storm surge
On the British archipelago of Turks and Caicos, roofs on the main island, Grand Turk, were blown off and streets were flooded amid a widespread black-out.
One witness told the BBC they had experienced a drop in pressure that "could be felt in people's chests".
Virginia Clerveaux, director of the Turks and Caicos Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies, warned that even inland areas of the islands, which have a population of about 35,000, could be inundated by the storm surge.
"We are expecting inundation from both rainfall as well as storm surge," he said. "And we may not be able to come rescue [residents] in a timely manner."
After Hurricane Irma, comes Jose... and Katia
As Hurricane Irma continues to rage through the Caribbean, the region is facing a new threat in the form of Hurricane Jose.
It has strengthened into a category three storm, with 120mph winds and posed a potential threat for Saturday to some of the same islands ravaged by Irma.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Katia has strengthened slightly as it swirls toward eastern Mexico and remains on track to gain major hurricane strength upon landfall.
The category one hurricane was on Friday morning about 185miles (300 km) east-southeast of Tampico, Mexico, with winds of 85mph.
'The aftermath looked like a bomb had gone off'
As Hurricane Irma pulverised the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda, desperate families tried to hide their children in cupboards and prayed for deliverance as the walls and roofs of their homes flew away piece by piece, reports Mitzi Allen in Barbuda.
The aftermath looked like a bomb had gone off with swathes of buildings reduced to rubble, and survivors told how they're lives were destroyed as they were pounded by the full force of Irma's 185mph winds.
In tears Gloria Cethaf, a mother of six, told The Telegraph: "I've lost everything. My home has been torn apart. Everything is gone. This is not my first hurricane but it's the worst I've ever experienced."
Click here to read more.
Emergency hotline for people affected by Irma
The Foreign Office has set up an emergency hotline for people affected by Hurricane Irma: 020 7008 0000.
British territory 'pummelled' as Hurricane Irma continues trail of destruction
A British territory has been "pummelled" overnight by Hurricane Irma as winds of up to 175mph left death and destruction in the Atlantic.
The Turks and Caicos Islands government declared a national shutdown as the category five storm continued to tear across the Caribbean, with life-threatening wind, rain and a storm surge expected into Friday.
Next, Irma is expected to bring 20ft storm surges to the Bahamas, before moving to Cuba and plowing into southern Florida.
Irma, which continues to be a "potentially catastrophic" hurricane, has killed at least 14 people according to reports, with islands across the region told to prepare for storm surges.
The hurricane's ruinous touch, which has already reduced the island of Barbuda to wreckage, will also be felt in nearby Haiti as the storm sweeps north west.
Meanwhile, the British Virgin Islands said they were confident of being able to rebuild after houses were reduced to foundations following the "devastating" storm.
Images posted on social media showed entire structures razed to the ground, with debris scattered across the streets.
Sharon Flax-Brutus, director of tourism for the group of more than 60 islands, said: "The destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands has been devastating.
"The destination has lost entire structures and many homes are without roofs, or have been diminished to merely foundations."
She added communication between the islands has been difficult as mobile phone towers had come down - meaning it was tricky to gauge the full extent of the damage.
Irma was first classified as a tropical storm on August 30 and rapidly intensified over the following days, becoming a category four hurricane on September 4.
Then, winds reached a peak of 130mph, but soon became the strongest for more than a decade when sustained winds peaked at 185mph.
Saint Martin, which has already been victim to Irma, is now facing a new threat in the form of Jose, while the British territories of Anguilla and Montserrat are on alert for a tropical storm.
Thousands of British tourists believed to be holidaying in the Caribbean have been warned to follow evacuation orders while some have been advised to stay in their hotel rooms.
States of emergency have been declared in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida, where the storm is due to make landfall this weekend.
In Fort Lauderdale, 40-year-old Erik Petersen described the atmosphere as "pretty tense" - adding there was much more worry than last year, when the Sunshine State braced for Hurricane Matthew.
The dual American-British citizen said: "People aren't just talking about this as a hurricane, they're taking about it as the hurricane.
"I've had a few people ask if I'm considering going somewhere else in Florida, but this thing's the size of Texas. Roads are clogged, hotels are full, gas is running low.
"I'd rather face this thing in a house in Fort Lauderdale than in a car in a traffic jam somewhere outside Orlando."
Mr Petersen, who lived in the UK for 11 years and most recently called Nottingham his home city, is riding out the storm with his 36-year-old wife Jo and their six-year-old daughter Anya.
He said he was expecting lots of damage and said power could be out for weeks.
"With no electricity or air conditioning, you get used to stinking. Some people have generators. Unfortunately, we don't," he said.
"Luckily we do have a gas oven, so we can cook without electricity. Anya largely sees this as a big camp-out or adventure, which I suppose is good.
"Jo hasn't been through a hurricane before, but she's been through hurricane prep, so she's in full-on Spirit of Dunkirk/Getting Stuff Done mode.
"My parents have lived here for many years and seen a lot of stuff. They're not panicking, but they're taking this all very seriously."
In response to the unfolding crisis, Theresa May announced that £32 million had been released to assist the relief effort.
Speaking after a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee on Thursday afternoon, the Prime Minister said: "We must not forget that there is a further storm on the way.
"But that won't stop us from providing the assistance that is needed, and doing everything we can to help."
The British military has dispatched a task group of experts into the affected areas of the Atlantic to provide support and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Mounts Bay vessel is transporting supplies.
Addressing concerns about the speed of Britain's response, Mrs May said both humanitarian workers and RFA Mounts Bay had been "prepositioned".
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon added the military vessel is "already at work" clearing roads and helping to restore power.