Hurricane Irma began to lash the Antilles on Wednesday morning, moving northwest from Antigua and Barbuda. Météo France said that the hurricane is of "unprecedented intensity in the Atlantic", with wind speeds of up to 360 kilometres per hour [185 miles per hour], which has meant many residents have been unable to leave and instead have to wait out the storm.

During the night between Tuesday and Wednesday in local time, Irma first made landfall on the French island of St Barthelemy, and then on the French-Dutch divided island of St Martin. Our Observer Loren Ann is staying on Saint Martin island, and took videos of the moment the storm hit. She lives in Florida and is in the Antilles on holiday with friends. Her videos posted on Facebook showed how the night unfolded.

In this video filmed on Tuesday night, she shows the waves becoming increasingly larger on the beach.


Fifteen minutes before the cyclone hit Saint Martin, she said that "the walls were shaking, the wind was howling [and] rain was spraying through the sliding doors".

Only a few minute later, the rain outside became torrential. This is the moment Loren Ann spoke to us live, describing what she could see and hear.


It sounded like a freight train [when the hurricane hit]. With my friends we're in two rooms. We've got some flooding on all floors in our rooms. The doors are shaking like we're on a rollercoaster. The fibreglass insulation is falling out of the windows.
 
Hotel staff then told Loren Ann and her friends to go downstairs to listen to safety instructions. Once the storm had calmed a bit, she took photos of the destruction outside. "Cars are smashed in, a roof came off," she said.


Hotel management told everyone to go downstairs to the third floor, but "there was a lot of glass", so although two of her friends decided to stay downstairs with the other hotel guests and staff, Loren Ann and two others went back into their hotel room. The hotel told them that the bathroom was the safest place, so they locked themselves in. The room was flooded with water. The eye of the hurricane had yet to go over Saint Martin at this point. Loren Ann explains that they are about to get mattresses and put them over the sliding doors in advance of the next part of the storm.


We will update this article when we receive more information from our Observer..

Sandbags and emergency measures

From Guadeloupe to Saint Martin, people all over the Antilles have been documenting what it's like to be in the path of the storm.

In Saint Martin, this resident was busy making his own sandbags before the storm hit.


Getting ready for Irma #irma #sandbag #digging #teamwork #antigua #coconutgrove #besafe

Une publication partagée par Jeremy Jan (@flourwaterpassion) le


The following video was filmed on Tuesday, at the end of the afternoon, not far from a pier on the small island of Pinel about 170 metres from Saint Martin. From inside his car, a driver tries to escape the rising waters that are spilling over into the road. "Look at this! It's crazy," he says, half-laughing, half-worried.


The videos below were posted to Facebook by a resident of Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of Saint Martin, during Wednesday night. Standing just outside his front door, Carlos Dollison watches the swirling waters in the street. "I even saw fish go past," he says.


A few hours later, the weather seems even more out of control. Dollison filmed a house just opposite that had burst into flames. In another Facebook post, he said that the house next to it had set on fire too.

"The house is creaking everywhere"


Hervé Meunier, a resident of Marigot in Saint Martin, broadcast a Facebook Live right in the middle of the cyclone, at about 6 o'clock in the morning. "I can hear the house just creaking everywhere... The porch windows are bending," he says into the camera, while pacing back and forth in the house to check that the roof and the doors haven't started to collapse.



This video shows the damage in Saint Martin after the hurricane passed.


In Saint Barthelemy there was significant damage as well.