Published on Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Flights cancelled as Hurricane Irma bears down on Caribbean

Florida has declared a state of emergency and warnings have been issued for almost a dozen Caribbean islands since Hurricane Irma has been upgraded to a powerful category four storm.

It is expected to bring ferocious winds and severe flooding to several destinations.

Irma's wind speed had already reached up to 140mph early this morning and, according to the US National Hurricane Center, this is likely to strengthen in the next 48 hours.

Irma is likely to hit the Leeward Islands, including Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, and the British and US Virgin Islands, later today or early on Wednesday, bringing up to 25 cm of rainfall and increasing water levels by up to nine feet.

As a result, British Airways has been forced to cancel flights between Gatwick and Antigua and Tobago today.

"We are doing all we can to get our customers to their final destinations and some customers will be able to re-book with Caribbean Airlines via Port of Spain or with our partner American Airlines via Miami," said BA, reminding customers that those travelling via Miami must ensure they have a valid ESTA.

"We are keeping our flights to other Caribbean islands under review, pending the latest information from the airport authorities.

"The safety of our customers is always our top priority and we are in regular contact with the airport authorities as the storm moves through the area," it added.

Virgin has changed today's flight from Antigua to Gatwick to include a stop in St Lucia, from where it will continue to London. It is also offering passengers due to travel to, from and through Antigua today the option to rebook up to September 30.

(graphic from the National Hurricane Centre)

Irma might also hit Florida, although experts said it was too early to predict its exact path. Puerto Rico has also declared a state of emergency and activated its National Guard.

The UK Foreign Office is also warning that Irma could bring hazardous sea and weather conditions to Cuba on Thursday.

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