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Hurricane Irma: Warning the 'situation could deteriorate significantly' as it bears down on US mainland

People from the UK in the path of Hurricane Irma are being warned the "situation could deteriorate significantly" as it bears down on the US mainland.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said its ability to provide assistance may be "extremely limited" and advised those affected to make their own contingency plans.

The historic storm regained its category five status overnight before dropping back to category four on Saturday after leaving more than 20 people dead across the Caribbean.

More than six million people in Florida and Georgia have been warned to leave their homes as the hurricane continues to batter the north coast of Cuba.

Prime Minister Theresa May said work was taking place with US authorities to ensure British expats and tourists in Florida are protected as millions of locals and visitors flee to safety.

But the latest travel advice issued by the Government states: "Across the United States, it is important that you follow the advice of the local authorities, including any evacuation orders.

"The situation could deteriorate significantly. Our ability to provide assistance may be extremely limited.

"You should ensure you have your own contingency plans in place and consider your travel plans very carefully."

Aid and expertise is being provided to Britain's territories in the region in a £32 million government cash injection.

Engineers, marines and medics are being carried on board RFA Mounts Bay, which delivered six tonnes of supplies to Anguilla and carried out repair work before moving on to the British Virgin Islands.

The Government has also pledged to double any public donations to the British Red Cross appeal for victims of Hurricane Irma, up to £3 million.

Irma claimed at least 20 lives, including four in the British Virgin Islands and one each on Anguilla and Barbuda, and left thousands of people homeless when it smashed into the region on Wednesday.

The low-lying Florida Keys will be struck first when Irma arrives on Sunday and authorities are reportedly considering withdrawing emergency teams from the islands.

The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) has forecast Irma will reach the Keys and southern Florida on Sunday morning, bringing devastating winds, rain and storm surges up to 12ft high.

Those on Caribbean islands braced for a second battering, this time from Hurricane Jose, were told the storm has weakened slightly.

But forecasters warned it was still a "dangerous" category four hurricane, which is expected to come close to the devastated northern Leeward Islands on Saturday.

A hurricane warning for the Commonwealth island of Barbuda and the British territory of Anguilla has been downgraded to a tropical storm warning, while Antigua and the British Virgin Islands are on tropical storm watch.

Life-threatening wind, rain and a storm surge are expected in the Turks and Caicos Islands, another British territory, into Saturday, after it was "pummelled" by Irma on Thursday night.

The Foreign Office has set up a hotline for people affected by the disaster and for people whose loved ones may be affected, on 020 7008 0000.

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