Topeka-based Guardsmen brace for Hurricane Irma

La Defensa Civil de Cuba realizando su efectivo trabajo durante un hurracán anterior

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center says the storm is nearing Category 5 status, carrying winds of up to 240kph.

Officials at the Nisbet Beach Plantation Club-a popular Nevis resort-reported "strong winds and rain", that created "considerable damage" to the resort's Sea Breeze Beach Bar and beachside deck, as well as to the beach itself.

About 50,000 tourists are fleeing or have fled Cuba, with resorts on the north coast now empty, the news agency reports.

There are over 17,000 tourists now staying at hotels in Varadero, the largest sun and beach resort in the country, located in the western province of Matanzas, an area which won't be hit by the Hurricane if it turns north as predicted thus far and heads towards Florida.

With Hurricane Irma menacing South Florida, Catholic Charities USA and other US disaster response agencies were preparing yet another emergency response even as they continued to grapple with the ruin Hurricane Harvey wrought on Texas and Louisiana.

Balmy water temperatures along Irma's trajectory ran deep beneath the surface and slightly higher than normal, by as much as a degree Fahrenheit in places, providing ample fuel for the storm's development, scientists said.

"The entire south-eastern United States better wake up and pay attention", he added. Florida Governor Rick Scott is again urging residents in mandatory evacuation zones to leave immediately, and for those nearby to start making preparations. At the other end of the climate crisis spectrum, he says, C.R.S.is continuing to respond to drought and conflict-related starvation in Somalia and Kenya and hunger and a refugee crisis in South Sudan.

Just a few days after Irma razed the first islands, Richards said his bookings have already dropped for the Caribbean, his company's second-most popular destination worldwide for US tourists.

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Another death - the second - has been confirmed in the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten.

"We have worked closely with all of our guests to ensure their safe return home, and by the time we suspend hotel operations we will not have any guests resident at [the hotel] said Carla Santiago, a Hyatt spokeswoman". Curfews were imposed there and on St. Barts, and French and Dutch authorities announced plans to send hundreds more troops and police to keep order.

Reporting from another badly damaged island, Barbuda, the BBC's Laura Bicker says the destruction there is worse than feared.

It is following a similar path to Irma and already hampering relief efforts in some of the worst affected areas.

And Richard Branson's private island has been completely destroyed by Irma.

By Friday night, Irma's winds had diminished to 155 miles per hour (250 kph) and it was downgraded to a Category 4 storm, though still considered extremely unsafe.

A pilot for the airline managed to take on the hurricane by flying directly into the path of the storm before landing safely in Puerto Rico and taking off within an hour.

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