Hurricane Irma has caused widespread destruction across the Caribbean, reducing islands to rubble and leaving at least seven people killed.
The small island of Barbuda is said to be “barely habitable” while officials warn that the French territory of St Martin is almost destroyed.
With the scale of the damage still emerging the death toll is likely to rise.
Meanwhile, two other storms have strengthened to become hurricanes.
Irma, a category five hurricane, the highest possible level, is currently passing north of the US territory of Puerto Rico, the US National Hurricane Center said.
More than half of the island’s three million residents were without power as Irma caused heavy downpours and strong winds. Officials have said that power could be cut off for several days.
The most Atlantic powerful storm in a decade had wind speeds of 295km/h (185mph) and was expected to pass near or just north of the coast of the Dominican Republic on Thursday.
Hurricane Irma first hit the dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. At least one death, of a child, was reported on Barbuda, where Prime Minister Gaston Browne said about 95% of the buildings had suffered some damage.
“It is absolute devastation,” he said after flying over the island, home to some 1,600 people. “The island is literally under water. In fact, I’m of the view that, as it stands now, Barbuda is barely habitable.”
However, Antigua, population 80,000, escaped major damage, with no loss of life, he said earlier.
Officials have confirmed at least six deaths and considerable damage in the French territories of St Martin and Saint Barthélemy – the French holiday destination popularly known as St Barts.
St Martin’s airport, the third largest in the Caribbean, has been destroyed, with local officials saying that most buildings on the territory had been levelled.
Residents are said to be without drinking water and electricity and emergency crews are still trying to reach the worst-hit areas.
Significant damage was also reported in the Dutch section of St Martin, known as Sint-Maarten.
US President Donald Trump said he and his aides were monitoring Irma’s progress. “But it looks like it could be something that will be not good. Believe me, not good,” he told reporters at the White House.
It is still not yet clear what impact Hurricane Irma might have on the US mainland but projections suggested it could hit the state of Florida on Sunday.
Officials started evacuations of tourists and residents of Florida Keys, a resort archipelago.
A state of emergency had been declared for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, mobilising federal disaster relief efforts.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the government was in touch with British overseas territories caught up in Irma, and was doing “everything we can to help those afflicted”.
Islands in Irma’s immediate path
Antigua and Barbuda
Key facts: one of the Caribbean’s most prosperous nations, thanks to its tourism industry and offshore financial services
Hurricane report: Antigua reportedly escaped major damage, with no loss of life, but some 95% of structures on Barbuda were damaged or destroyed, the prime minister says, confirming at least one death
Key facts: tourist destination celebrated for its beaches; divided between France, which calls its section Saint Martin, and the Netherlands, which calls its part Sint-Maarten
Hurricane report: six people reported killed in St Martin, according to Guadeloupe prefect Eric Maire. There has been serious damage to buildings, flooding, power cuts
St Barts (Saint Barthélemy)
Key facts: luxury tourist destination
Hurricane report: serious damage to buildings, flooding, power cuts
Turks and Caicos
Key facts: enjoys one of the more dynamic economies in the region thanks to upmarket tourism, offshore finance and fishing
Hurricane report: the low-lying region is at risk of a storm surge with destructive waves up to 6m (20ft) higher than usual possible
British Virgin Islands
Key facts: more than 40 islands and islets
Hurricane report: Irma is passing over the northern islands
Population: 3.7 million
Key facts: a tourist destination but plagued by debt, poverty and high unemployment
Hurricane report: Irma expected to pass close by
Population: 10.2 million
Key facts: major tourist destination, shares island of Hispaniola with Haiti
Hurricane report: Irma expected to pass close by
Another storm, Jose, further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, swelled to category one hurricane strength and could be near major hurricane strength on Friday, according to the US National Hurricane Center.
Although its path was not clear, Jose could hit some areas already affected by Irma.
And storm Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, was also upgraded to hurricane status, and a warning was in effect for the coast of the Mexican state of Veracruz.
Seeing multiple storms developing in the same area of the Atlantic in close succession is not uncommon.
Rarer though is the strength of the hurricanes, with Harvey making landfall in the US as a category four.
There have never been two category four storms making landfall on the US mainland during the same season, since records began.
“Luke 21:26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”
“Matthew 24:7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 24:8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
The return of Christ to our world will not be long delayed. Let this be the keynote of every message. CCh 343.4
The restraining Spirit of God is even now being withdrawn from the world. Hurricanes, storms, tempests, fire and flood, disasters by sea and land, follow each other in quick succession. Science seeks to explain all these. The signs thickening around us, telling of the near approach of the Son of God, are attributed to any other than the true cause. Men cannot discern the sentinel angels restraining the four winds that they shall not blow until the servants of God are sealed; but when God shall bid His angels loose the winds, there will be such a scene of strife as no pen can picture. CCh 343.5
Could the curtain be rolled back, could you discern the purposes of God and the judgments that are about to fall upon a doomed world, could you see your own attitude, you would fear and tremble for your own souls and for the souls of your fellow men.Earnest prayers of heart-rending anguish would go up to heaven. You would weep between the porch and the altar, confessing your spiritual blindness and backsliding.611 CCh 343.6
That evil servant who said in his heart, “My Lord delayeth His coming,” professed to be waiting for Christ. He was a “servant,” outwardly devoted to the service of God while at heart he had yielded to Satan. CCh 344.1
He does not, like the scoffer, openly deny the truth, but reveals in his life the sentiment of the heart—that the Lord’s coming is delayed.Presumption renders him careless of eternal interests. He accepts the world’s maxims and conforms to its customs and practices. Selfishness, worldly pride, and ambitions predominate. Fearing that his brethren may stand higher than himself, he begins to disparage their efforts and impugn their motives.Thus he smites his fellow servants. CCh 344.2
As he alienates himself from the people of God he unites more and more with the ungodly. He is found eating and drinking “with the drunken”—joining with worldlings and partaking of their spirit. Thus he is lulled into a carnal security and overcome by forgetfulness, indifference, and sloth.612 CCh 344.3
The day of test and purification is just upon us. Signs of a most startling character appear, in floods, in hurricanes, in tornadoes, in cloudbursts, in casualties by land and by sea, that proclaim the approach of the end of all things. The judgments of God are falling on the world, that men may be awakened to the fact that Christ will come speedily (The Review and Herald, November 8, 1892). 7BC 950.5