Hurricane Irma lashes Cuba; Jose poses threat elsewhere

Residents walk near downed power lines felled by Hurricane Irma, in Caibarien, Cuba, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. There were no reports of deaths or injuries after heavy rain and winds from Irma lashed northeastern Cuba. Seawater surged three blocks inland in Caibarien. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
A man wades through a flooded street in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in Caibarien, Cuba, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. There were no reports of deaths or injuries after heavy rain and winds from Irma lashed northeastern Cuba. Seawater surged three blocks inland in Caibarien. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
A woman and child use a blanket as protection from wind and rain as they walk in Caibarien, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Hurricane Irma battered Cuba on Saturday with deafening winds and unremitting rain, pushing seawater inland and flooding homes before taking aim at Florida. Early Saturday, the hurricane center said the storm was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) northwest of the town of Caibarien. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
A tree felled by Hurricane Irma blocks a road in Caibarien, Cuba, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. There were no reports of deaths or injuries after heavy rain and winds from Irma lashed northeastern Cuba. Seawater surged three blocks inland in Caibarien. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Residents walk in rain brought on by Hurricane Irma, in Caibarien, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Irma battered Cuba on Saturday with deafening winds and unremitting rain, pushing seawater inland and flooding homes before taking aim at Florida. Early Saturday, the hurricane center said the storm was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) northwest of the town of Caibarien. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Residents ride their bikes through flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in Caibarien, Cuba, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. There were no reports of deaths or injuries after heavy rain and winds from Irma lashed northeastern Cuba. Seawater surged three blocks inland in Caibarien. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
A fire truck turns onto a street in Caibarien, Cuba, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Hurricane Irma battered Cuba on Saturday with deafening winds and unremitting rain, pushing seawater inland and flooding homes before taking aim at Florida. Early Saturday, the hurricane center said the storm was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) northwest of the town of Caibarien. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Bicyclists ride along the seawall in wind and rain brought on by Hurricane Irma, in Caibarien, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Irma battered Cuba on Saturday with deafening winds and unremitting rain, pushing seawater inland and flooding homes before taking aim at Florida. Early Saturday, the hurricane center said the storm was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) northwest of the town of Caibarien. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
Men board up a door in preparation for Hurricane Irma in Caibarien, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Cuba evacuated tourists from beachside resorts after Hurricane Irma left thousands homeless on a devastated string of Caribbean islands and spun toward Florida for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
This photo provided by Caribbean Buzz shows the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in the U.S. Virgin Islands The death toll from Hurricane Irma has risen to 22 as the storm continues its destructive path through the Caribbean. The dead include 11 on St. Martin and St. Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands and four in the British Virgin Islands. There was also one each in Barbuda, Anguilla, and Barbados. The toll is expected to rise as rescuers reach some of the hardest-hit areas. (Caribbean Buzz via AP)
CORRECTS DAY - This photo provided on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, shows storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Virgin Gorda's Gun Creek in the British Virgin Islands. Irma scraped Cuba's northern coast Friday on a course toward Florida, leaving in its wake a ravaged string of Caribbean resort islands strewn with splintered lumber, corrugated metal and broken concrete. (Caribbean Buzz Helicopters via AP)
This photo provided by Caribbean Buzz shows boats clustered together after Hurricane Irma Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The death toll from Hurricane Irma has risen to 22 as the storm continues its destructive path through the Caribbean. The dead include 11 on St. Martin and St. Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands and four in the British Virgin Islands. There was also one each in Barbuda, Anguilla, and Barbados. The toll is expected to rise as rescuers reach some of the hardest-hit areas. (Caribbean Buzz via AP)
CORRECTS DATE - This Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, a man walks past an uprooted tree sitting in the middle of a road in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. Irma scraped Cuba's northern coast Friday on a course toward Florida, leaving in its wake a ravaged string of Caribbean resort islands strewn with splintered lumber, corrugated metal and broken concrete. (Jalon Manson Shortte via AP)
CORRECTS DAY - This Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 photo shows storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. Irma scraped Cuba's northern coast Friday on a course toward Florida, leaving in its wake a ravaged string of Caribbean resort islands strewn with splintered lumber, corrugated metal and broken concrete. (Jalon Manson Shortte via AP)
This Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 photo shows storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. Irma scraped Cuba's northern coast Friday on a course toward Florida, leaving in its wake a ravaged string of Caribbean resort islands strewn with splintered lumber, corrugated metal and broken concrete. (Jalon Manson Shortte via AP)
CORRECTS DAY - This photo provided on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, shows storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in St. John's Caneel Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Irma scraped Cuba's northern coast Friday on a course toward Florida, leaving in its wake a ravaged string of Caribbean resort islands strewn with splintered lumber, corrugated metal and broken concrete. (Caribbean Buzz Helicopters via AP)
CORRECTS DATE - This Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 photo shows boats washed ashore in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. Irma scraped Cuba's northern coast Friday on a course toward Florida, leaving in its wake a ravaged string of Caribbean resort islands strewn with splintered lumber, corrugated metal and broken concrete. (Jalon Manson Shortte via AP)
CORRECTS DAY - This photo provided on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 shows storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. Irma scraped Cuba's northern coast Friday on a course toward Florida, leaving in its wake a ravaged string of Caribbean resort islands strewn with splintered lumber, corrugated metal and broken concrete. (Jalon Manson Shortte via AP)

CAIBARIEN, Cuba — Irma battered Cuba with deafening winds and relentless rain Saturday, while a second hurricane, Jose, threatened to lash already-reeling islands elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Cuban coastal cities were clobbered by high winds from Irma that upended trees, toppled utility poles and scattered debris across streets. Roads were blocked, and witnesses said a provincial museum near the eye of the storm was in ruins.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in Cuba in addition to the 22 dead left in Irma's wake across the Caribbean, where the storm ravaged such lush resort islands as St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla.

Many of Irma's victims fled their battered islands on ferries and fishing boats for fear Jose would destroy or drench anything Irma left untouched.

On the Dutch side of St. Martin, an island divided between French and Dutch control, an estimated 70 percent of the homes were destroyed by Irma, according to the Dutch government. Officials said Jose was forecast to dump more rain on the island's buildings, many of which lost their roofs to Irma.

The U.S. State Department helped more than 500 Americans fly out of St. Martin, starting with those in need of urgent medical care, said spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Carol Basch, a 53-year-old tourist from Savannah, Georgia, took refuge during the storm in the bathroom of her St. Martin hotel room after windows shattered. She stayed there praying for about four hours, surrounding herself with pillows.

"I kept saying, 'Lord, please stop this, and soon, soon,'" said Basch, who was evacuated to Puerto Rico. "I'm glad I'm alive. I didn't think I was going to make it."

Some islands received a last-minute reprieve from Jose as it passed by.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center downgraded a hurricane warning for Barbuda and Anguilla. A hurricane watch also was discontinued for nearby Antigua.

By late Saturday afternoon, Irma passed Cuba and slowly chugged toward Florida with winds of 125 mph (205 kmh). Jose was 85 miles (135 kilometers) northeast of the Leeward Islands, with winds of 145 mph (230 kmh).

As Irma rolled in, Cuban soldiers went through coastal towns to force people to evacuate, taking people to shelters at government buildings and schools — and even caves.

Video images from northern and eastern Cuba showed uprooted utility poles and signs, many downed trees and extensive damage to roofs.

Eastern Cuba, a major sugarcane-growing area and home to many poor, rural communities, faced a staggering recovery, with its economy in tatters even before the storm hit due to years of neglect and lack of investment.

Civil Defense official Gergorio Torres said authorities were trying to tally the extent of the damage, which appeared concentrated in banana-growing areas.

More than 5,000 tourists were evacuated from the keys off Cuba's north-central coast, where the government has built dozens of all-inclusive resorts in recent years. In much of central Cuba, power was cut off and downed trees blocked roads.

In Caibarien, a small coastal city about 200 miles (320 kilometers) east of Havana, winds downed power lines and a three-block area was under water. Many residents stayed put, hoping to ride out the storm.

Looting was reported on St. Martin. 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.

French President Emmanuel Macron, whose popularity has been sinking over unpopular domestic policies, held an emergency meeting as he came under criticism from stranded residents in the country's Caribbean territories. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who lost the presidential election in May, accused the government of having "totally insufficient" emergency and security measures.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe insisted that the government's support for Irma's victims isn't "empty words" and that it was "completely mobilized" to rescue and rebuild.

It was not immediately known whether U.S. President Donald Trump's luxury property on St. Martin had been damaged.

On Anguilla, Vanessa Croft Thompson crammed into her home's laundry room with her husband, her best friend and their children along with their cats and dogs, as Irma's floodwaters swamped her house. The storm peeled off her roof, rained water inside, and sheared paint from her walls.

"Our hurricane-proof door was bending in, it was warping ... and the entire house was shaking like it was an earthquake," she said.

Thompson, the head of the English department at Anguilla's only high school, said: "I don't even know something that's not destroyed. There's nothing here that hasn't been ripped apart by Irma."

___

Associated Press writers Michael Weissenstein and Andrea Rodriguez in Havana; Ben Fox in Miami; Ian Brown in St. Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands; Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Seth Borenstein in Washington; Alina Hartounian in Phoenix; Thomas Adamson and Angela Charlton in Paris; and Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.

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HURRICANE NEWSLETTER - Get the best of the AP's all-formats reporting on Irma and Harvey in your inbox: http://apne.ws/ahYQGtb

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