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Turks and Caicos in harm's way as Hurricane Irma heads for Bahamas

A British territory is bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma as it continues to chart a destructive course across the Caribbean.

The Turks and Caicos Islands sit in the path of the category five storm, which is bound for the Bahamas after leaving a trail of death and devastation in the Atlantic.

Authorities on Grand Turk have urged people near the coast to take shelter on higher ground amid fears of a storm surge.

The Islands' Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies said water levels could swell by 15 to 20 feet above the normal tide.

Irma's ruinous touch, which has already reduced the island of Barbuda to wreckage, will also be felt in nearby Haiti as the storm sweeps north west.

At least 10 people have are known to have died, including on the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla.

Thousands of British tourists believed to be holidaying in the Caribbean have been warned to follow evacuation orders, while states of emergency have been declared in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida.

In response to the unfolding crisis, Theresa May announced that £32 million had been released to assist the relief effort.

Speaking after a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee on Thursday afternoon, the Prime Minister said: "We must not forget that there is a further storm on the way, and that the Turks and Caicos Islands still lie in the path of Hurricane Irma.

"But that won't stop us from providing the assistance that is needed, and doing everything we can to help."

The British military has dispatched a task group of experts into the affected areas of the Atlantic to provide support and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Mounts Bay vessel is transporting supplies.

Addressing concerns about the speed of Britain's response, Mrs May said both humanitarian workers and RFA Mounts Bay had been "prepositioned".

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon added the military vessel is "already at work" clearing roads and helping to restore power.

The storm destroyed nearly all buildings on the island of Barbuda on Wednesday, leaving it "barely habitable", and killing a two-year-old child as a family tried to escape.

About 60% of the island's approximately 1,400 people are now homeless, while in Puerto Rico more than a million people were left without power.

French prime minister Edouard Philippe said four people were confirmed dead and about 50 injured on the Caribbean island of St Martin.

In the US Virgin Islands, authorities said three had died in the "catastrophic" damage.

British Virgin Islands governor Gus Jaspert declared a state of emergency.

He told residents: " I would like to appeal to you to remain calm and to reassure we are doing all we can to assist you.

"Please, could any public service organisation or anyone with a truck that could offer assistance and have not made contact with the (National Emergency Operations Centre), do so now."

Many roads were said to be impassable and drivers were urged to avoid the roads unless "absolutely necessary" to allow access for emergency services.

Mr Jaspert also warned island dwellers that Hurricane Jose could yet reach them, anticipating the storm could be category three when it arrives at the weekend.

"Let us all continue to help each other however we can and continue to pray for each other, may God bless and protect the territory and our people," he said.

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