At least 8 people dead as Irma continues to slam Caribbean islands

Aerial shots of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on the island of Barbuda
in the Caribbean.

(CNN) Hurricane Irma hammered a string of northeast Caribbean islands, thrashing them with rain and winds of up to 180 mph, and leaving at least eight people dead.

The hurricane battered several islands, including Barbuda, St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands. Its howling winds tore leaves from palm trees, ripped off roofs and windows from buildings, and slammed tall waves into hotels.

The eye of one of the strongest storms recorded in the Atlantic is making its way toward a possibly devastating hit on Florida over the weekend. The National Hurricane Center described Irma as “extremely dangerous.”

Here are the latest developments:

— Hurricane Irma has killed at least nine people, officials said. Six died on the island of St. Martin and two others on St. Barts, according to French officials. The islands are French-run. An infant in Barbuda also died in the storm, officials there said.

— Barbuda took such a major hit, about 95% of its buildings are damaged, its Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.

— He described the damage as “unprecedented” destruction and absolutely devastating,” estimating the damage to be $100 million.

— Irma’s eye passed directly over Barbuda on Wednesday, leaving the small island’s 1,800 residents largely incommunicado after it knocked over the telecommunications system and cell towers.

— Irma is one of three active hurricanes in the Atlantic basin — the last time this happened was in 2010.

– By early Thursday morning, its core was spinning 140 miles northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

— A hurricane warning is in effect for some areas in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

— Irma has maintained intensity above 180 mph longer than any storm in Atlantic basin history.

— It’s too early to tell whether it will make landfall on the US mainland. Computer models show it could churn near Florida’s east coast by late Sunday, and forecasters warn the core could hit the Florida peninsula.

— The tropical storm force wind field from Irma stretches over 300 miles from end to end. If it were centered over New York City, the tropical storm force winds would stretch from Baltimore to Boston.

— Meanwhile, Jose, in the open Atlantic far to the southeast of Irma, became a hurricane. Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, also became a hurricane.

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