Hurricane Irma is continuing to grow and pick up speed as it travels westwards to the northeastern Caribbean and on to the US.
It is headed towards the Leeward Islands while a Hurricane Watch is in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts, and Nevis, Saba, St Eustatius, and Sint Maarten/Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy.
Emergency officials have warned the storm could dump up to 10 inches (25 cms) of rain, unleash landslides and dangerous flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet (seven metres) as the storm draws closer.
It is currently a Category 4 storm and has recorded sustained winds of up to 140 mph. It is moving at about 13 mph.
The storm’s centre was forecast to move near or over the northern Leeward Islands late on Tuesday and early on Wednesday, the US National Hurricane Centre said. In the US, Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency to prepare for widespread evacuations.
States of emergency have also been declared in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands where they are expecting four to eight inches (10-20 cms) of rain and winds of 40-50 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello activated the National Guard, cancelled classes for Tuesday and declared a half-day of work.