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Hurricane Irma: Still Strong, Still Headed Toward the US

The hurricane is a killer, and it could hit Florida as a Cat 4

(CNN) -- Hurricane Irma is moving through the northern Caribbean, leaving devastation and death in its wake.

The deadly Category 5 storm is the strongest hurricane anywhere in the Atlantic since 2005, with storm force winds stretching across more than 168,350 square kilometers, roughly the same area as the state of Florida.

At least nine people have been killed in Hurricane Irma, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said. Six died in the island of St. Martin and two others in St. Bart's, according to French officials. An additional death was an infant in Barbuda, officials there said.

Almost 16 million people across 10 countries, states and territories are in the path of the storm, according to the US Census Bureau.

Antigua and Barbuda
The tiny island of Barbuda has been the worst hit so far by Hurricane Irma, with Prime Minister Gaston Browne describing it as having suffered "total devastation."

Barbuda with a population of approximately 1,800 people is part of the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Most of the two-island nation's population of 80,000 people reside on the larger island of Antigua, which was spared the worst brunt of the storm as it headed northwest toward the US. There is also no way to land airplanes on the islands, Browne said from Antigua.

Assessing the damage from Irma, Charles Fernandez, minister of foreign affairs and international trade for Antigua and Barbuda, said that destruction on Barbuda was "upwards of 90%."

St. Martin/St. Maarten
The 87-square kilometer island is split roughly in half by the French overseas collectivity of St. Martin, and St. Maarten, a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Around 72,000 people live across the whole island, which has suffered property damage and power outages due to Irma.

As the storm approached earlier this week, residents of St. Maarten were warned to prepare supply kits and learn the locations of hurricane shelters.

"Those of you who think your homes may not be safe enough should immediately seek shelter with family, friends, or neighbors until the storm is over," Prime Minister William Marlin said Tuesday.

Anguilla
One of several British overseas territories in the Caribbean, the 90-square kilometer island of Anguilla sits just north of St. Martin, with a population of around 17,000.

The island has few natural resources, and is largely dependent on tourism, fishing and offshore banking, though it is not as developed as more established Caribbean tax havens.

Anguilla's government issued a hurricane warning earlier this week and urged all first responders to be ready to offer aid.

St. Kitts and Nevis
The twin island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is the smallest country in the Americas and Western Hemisphere, with a total land area of 261 square kilometers, and a population of around 52,000.

A largely tourism driven economy, the islands achieved independence from the UK in 1983, though repeated attempts by Nevis to go it alone have so far not been successful.

According to a government statement, St. Kitts and Nevis suffered damage to property and water and power outages due to the storm.

The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico
The dozens of islands that make up the Virgin Islands are split three ways, between the US, British and Spanish Virgin Islands, which includes Vieques and Culebra.

More than 135,000 people live across the islands, with the majority in the US territories. The economy of the islands is largely based on tourism, with more than 3 million visiting the US Virgin Islands every year alone, mainly via cruise ships.

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory, meaning its 3.35 million residents have US citizenship but cannot vote in federal elections. Vieques and Culebra are island off the the east coast of Puerto Rico.

The US territory, which has been dealing with a major economic crisis for several years, has been bracing for the impact of Hurricane Irma, as people have emptied shelves of food and water and Governor Ricardo Rosselló has declared a state of emergency.

Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos is a British overseas territory sitting north of Haiti and east of Cuba, and is home to around 52,000 people.

Like Anguilla, its economy is largely based on tourism, fishing and offshore financial services, with the majority of visitors coming from the US by cruise ship.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Turks and Caicos, and national emergency operations in place, according to a statement.

Bahamas
Located between the southern tip of Florida and Cuba, the Bahamas is an independent nation of around 330,000 people, made up on more than 700 islands, reefs and islets.

The country was battered by Hurricane Matthew last year, which killed more than 270 people across the Caribbean.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis warned residents to "take Irma seriously" earlier this week, and a hurricane warning has been issued for the islands.

Florida
The third most-populous US state, Florida is where Hurricane Irma is expected to make final landfall, with a large chunk of the state's population of 20 million in the path of the storm.

Residents have been told to prepare for mass evacuations, with many areas having already ordered locals to leave. But experts have warned such a large exodus could lead to miles-long gridlock, as happened with attempted mass evacuations during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and Hurricane Rita in 2005.

PHOTO: CNN Newsource

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