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Britons evacuated after Hurricane Irma devastates Caribbean

Expats and tourists have spoken of their terror at the most powerful storm ever in the Atlantic Ocean.

Britons are being evacuated from the Caribbean after Hurricane Irma caused devastation in the region.

Expats and tourists have spoken of their terror at the most powerful storm ever in the Atlantic Ocean, and shock at the extent of the damage.

The hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm on Monday after battering Florida with 100mph winds and torrential rain overnight.

Recovery and aid efforts are under way in the worst-affected islands, while many British nationals are working to piece together their lives from the ruins of the storm.

On Monday, Boris Johnson defended the Government’s response to Hurricane Irma, amid claims the UK has done less to evacuate its citizens than other nations.

The Foreign Secretary said there had been an “unprecedented” effort to deal with the aftermath of the storm.

Hurricane Irma's likely path updated (PA Graphics)

He said: “This is a very big consular crisis and I am confident we are doing everything we possibly can to help British nationals.”

One British family told how they sheltered in a wardrobe as Irma hit their home in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands as a category five storm.

Clare Chilton, husband Hadley and their two children spent more than 24 hours holed up with a mattress protecting their heads during the worst of the hurricane.

(Clare Chilton/PA)

Ms Chilton, 40, who is originally from Middlesbrough, said she felt like “one of the lucky ones” after being rescued and taken to Puerto Rico with her three-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter.

Others on the island were less fortunate, including the family of British DJ Laura Elliott, who are surrounded by a “collapsed jungle” and awaiting rescue.

Ms Elliott, 38, who was working abroad when the hurricane hit, said she fears her fiance and two young children may run out of supplies in the coming days.

British DJ Laura Elliott is still to be rescued and says supplies are running low (Laura Elliott/PA)

Sir Richard Branson has shared images showing the devastation caused by Irma on his private Necker Island.

The billionaire businessman, who was pictured in front of torn-down buildings and uprooted trees, said he knew the people of the British Virgin Islands would “bounce back stronger than ever”.

Around 2,350 UK holidaymakers in Cuba are being evacuated by Thomas Cook.

In Florida, 10ft storm surges overwhelmed roads and buildings, cutting off Florida Keys from the mainland.

Residents and holidaymakers were ordered to stay indoors until the storm had passed.

Matt and Zoe Caveney, from Liverpool, were forced to spend much of their honeymoon confined to their hotel room at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Mr Caveney, 28, who married Zoe, 22, on August 5, said: “I’ve never seen rain or wind like it in my life.

“With Orlando being in central Florida we aren’t getting it as bad as the coastal towns, but there are very strong winds and heavy rain battering down. We can hear the wind battering the door and trees outside.”

James Stuart, who is on holiday in Orlando with his mother and brother, said they were “holed up helplessly” and the weather was “unbelievable”.

At least 34 people are reported to have been killed as Irma made its way across the region, while thousands have been left homeless.

After chairing a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee, Mr Johnson said 700 troops and 50 police officers had been sent to Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Turks and Caicos islands, while 40 tonnes of UK aid had arrived in the region.

“We are also sending more police into both the BVI and into Anguilla, so that security has improved and a sense of confidence is rising,” he added.

“We have also taken steps in relation to St Maarten, which is a French and Dutch territory. There are a lot of Brits on holiday there and we have sent UK consular representatives.”

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