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Hurricane Irma claims its first two lives - and TWO more massive storms are brewing over the Atlantic

Two people have died on the islands of St Barts and St Martin, with another two people seriously injured.

Antigua Hurricane Irma A man surveys the wreckage on his property after the passing of Hurricane Irma over the Caribbean islands of St John's, Antigua and Barbuda earlier today Source: AP/PA Images

TWO PEOPLE HAVE been killed on the eastern Caribbean islands of St Barts and St Martin after Category 5 Hurricane Irma made landfall.

France has confirmed the deaths this evening, and announced it will set up an emergency fund to help the islands rebuild.

“At the present moment, there are reports of two dead and two seriously injured,” the French minister for overseas affairs, Annick Girardin, told the news channel BFMTV.

But obviously, the situation can change very, very quickly.

Irma may just be the beginning of the region’s problems – two further storms, Jose and Katia, are currently brewing over the Atlantic, with both this evening being assigned hurricane status by America’s National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Jose is this evening positioned 1,040 miles (1,675 kilometres) east of the Lesser Antilles and packing maximum sustained winds of 75 miles-per-hour, the NHC said, marking it out as a Category 1 hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale.

It is the first time that three hurricanes have been simultaneously present over the Atlantic Ocean in seven years.

Hurricane Irma A satellite image, provided by Nasa, showing Irma in the Caribbean Source: AP/PA Images

Irma meanwhile is currently battering the Caribbean and threatening Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and south Florida, where it is expected to strike later this week.

Separately, French President Emmanuel Macron, after chairing a crisis meeting at the interior ministry in Paris, warned that the toll would be “harsh and cruel” and that damage on the two islands was “considerable”.

“A national reconstruction plan will be implemented as soon as possible,” Macron said, adding that an emergency fund to finance that plan would be set up.

Girardin was due to fly to the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe late this evening with emergency teams and supplies to assess the situation, the ministry said.

St Martin, located south of the island of Anguilla, is divided between the Netherlands and France.

Hurricane Irma 2017 Drivers fleeing ahead of Irma's arrival on the Florida Turnpike in the Florida Keys today Source: Al Diaz/PA Images

St Barts, which lies to the southeast of St Martin, has the status of a French collectivity (that is a subdivision of the European country, with its own governing authority), as is the French part of St Martin.

Fugitives

Meanwhile, a Florida sheriff has warned that people who are wanted by the law will be arrested if they turn up at public shelters to take refuge from the hurricane.

“If you go to a shelter for Irma and you have a warrant we will gladly escort you to the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail,” Sheriff Grady Judd tweeted.

Judd said police will be on duty at shelters checking the identities of everyone who comes in.

Sexual offenders and sexual predators will not be admitted, he said.

“We cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders & predators. Period,” he said.

Polk County is in central Florida and includes the city of Lakeland.

Judd was assailed on social media, accused of taking advantage of the storm to make arrests, and putting at risk the lives of people whose offences may not amount to more than traffic violations.

With reporting by Cianan Brennan

© – AFP, 2017

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