Stories emerging from witnesses of Hurricane Irma depict massive destruction. One video, captured by PTZtv, comes from a webcam situated outside a rental car store in St. Marteen, which contains chilling visuals of the destructive power of the storm’s wind and rain.
The death toll is not yet known, but with at least 10 deaths reported so far, the number is sure to grow. The unknown elements have left one mother in a state of alarm. Talking to the Daily Mail, she describes her fears about her missing family.
Claire Frank, a UK resident, has not heard anything from her husband or daughters in over 24 hours. Mrs. Frank’s husband Mackenzie, and her daughters Asha, 29, and Afiya, 27, may have been on the eastern Caribbean island of Barbuda when it was flattened by Hurricane Irma’s 185-mph winds. (See photo of sisters below).
Located north of Antigua, in the middle of the Leeward Islands, Barbuda has been described as “barely habitable,” with 95-percent of its buildings having been damaged.
Mrs. Frank’s daughter Afiya, works as a beauty consultant and assistant manager at a hotel on the island. She is also seven months pregnant and had planned to fly back to the UK soon for the birth of her first child.
Mrs. Frank’s other daughter, Asha, sent a text to family in Suffolk and London on Tuesday night. Mrs. Frank has not heard from her daughter since then.
Mrs. Frank is currently in the UK on vacation. She reports that her family has a sturdy, new, brick-built house on Barbuda, which she hopes withstood the abuse Irma may have bestowed upon it.
Her fears, according to the Daily Mail, stem from a famous scene in the 1939 classic film: “The Wizard of Oz.” She imagines her family sucked into the sky by a tornado-like wind. In the film, the house in which Dorothy and her dog Toto are sheltered gets captured in a tornado and swept away to the fictional land of Oz.
She said: “I have heard reports online of people saying they had to hold on to the walls inside their houses to avoid being pulled out of [it] by the pressure inside the hurricane. The winds are so strong and there is such extreme low pressure that houses can implode. I just don’t think the world has seen a hurricane like this before. It is just so difficult to imagine.”
She said that while she knows it’s fiction, she can’t help thinking of the film.
Mrs. Frank last spoke to her family on WhatsApp, at around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night. At the time, they were preparing to board up their home as the hurricane approached. Mrs. Frank is hopeful that her daughters and husband survived, but the island’s power was cut off as a precaution, and with telephone poles down on the island, there’s no communication. She’s eagerly anticipating the moment communications are restored to the island.
“It is the same for everyone with relatives on Barbuda,” she reportedly said. “There are 1,700 people on the island and nobody has been able to communicate to establish what has happened. We don’t know because we haven’t heard anything and there has not been an individual head count.”
“But I feel they are okay,” she continued, in reference to her missing loved ones.
Mrs. Frank says she’s lived on Barbuda for 25 years, and that this isn’t the first hurricane her family has experienced there. While she says people on Barbuda “usually have strong brick houses,” she fears this was a storm that not even those houses could survive.
Speaking of her newly built home, she said, “Who knows how strong it will have turned out to be? It depends on who built it. I trust the builder, but this hurricane has been so devastating.”
Mrs. Frank says her daughters are resilient and know what to do. “I think the experience will have been extremely traumatic for them,” she says. “I am hopeful they are okay, but none of us can estimate the experience of being in a hurricane like this.”
The wife and mother believes the amount of damage the storm would do was not fully anticipated, and that her family would have expected to come out of it the next day “with just a bit of cleaning up.”
She’s currently angry about the response to the disaster by Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister, Gaston Browne. According to the Daily Mail, he initially declared that his citizens had escaped serious harm in the hurricane.
Mrs. Frank reportedly said: “The real story is how the prime minister went on television and said to the world, ‘Thank the lord that everyone here is safe’ while people still haven’t heard from their families Barbuda. Then he went to Barbuda on a helicopter and saw 90 per cent devastation. It didn’t affect Antigua. The problem is that he would like to see everyone off Barbuda so they can develop the land for tourism.”
“A mass destruction of the island could be turned into a mass evacuation with him then declaring it uninhabitable so he can build on it,” she said.
Hurricane Irma is continuing through the Caribbean on a devastating course. After hitting Barbuda, the storm reached the French territories of St. Martin and St. Barts, leaving at least seven dead, according to the Daily Mail.
While a massive operation is underway to evacuate the coastal areas of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, on Thursday, Irma’s eye was just north of the coast of Puerto Rico. Irma is moving at around 16 mph, slated to hit the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Some US government personnel have been ordered to leave the Bahamas; and on US mainland, authorities are already evacuating locations in Florida.
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