The Antigua and Barbuda government has hinted at the possibility of imposing a curfew during the passage of Hurricane Irma expected to impact the island later Tuesday and Wednesday.
Speaking after a special Cabinet meeting on Monday night, Prime Minister Gaston Browne that this is to ensure that “persons stay within the safety of their homes to protect lives and limb and at the same time to ensure …that there is no looting of businesses.
“So again we are seriously considering that of having a curfew during the period of the storm. In any event we want to rely on individuals’ responsibility to ensure that we do not endanger lives, to protect family members …especially the disabled,” Browne said.
He said that his administration had already received assurances of assistance from ‘friendly nations” in the event the storm hits the island and commercial banks have already indicated a willingness to provide overdraft facilities to the government.
Prime Minister Browne said that the VC Bird International Airport will be closed at 4 p.m. (local time) and some hotels have also announced that they have taken action to safeguard the safety of their guests.
The Antigua-based regional airline, LIAT, has announced the cancellation of several of its daily flights mainly to areas in the path of the Category 4 Hurricane Irma.
“Passengers with travel dates from 4th to 8th September will have change fees and fare differences waived. Passengers with travel dates from 9 th to 11th will have the change fees waived but will have to pay any fare difference. Passengers who make changes after the 18th September will be subject to all change fees and applicable fare differences. We strongly advise our passengers to contact LIAT’s Call Centre for rebooking at their earliest convenience,” the airline said in a statement.
The authorities have said that shelters have already been opened in both Antigua and Barbuda and Health Minister Molwyn Joseph said plans to deal with flooding and other disasters associated with the storm have already been put in place.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Hurricane Irma, with winds of 150 miles per hour (mph) was moving toward the west near 14 mph and this general motion is expected to continue Tuesday followed by a turn toward the west-northwest tonight.
“On the forecast track, the core of Irma will move near or over portions of the northern Leeward Islands tonight and early Wednesday,” it said, adding that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 150 mph with higher gusts.
“Irma is a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 hurricane,” the NHC added.
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts, and Nevis, Saba, St Eustatius, and Sint Maarten / Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra.
A Hurricane Watch remains in effect for Guadeloupe while a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Dominica.