Caribbean

Updated at 11:10 p.m. ET

Hurricane Maria is about to hit St. Croix and then move on to Puerto Rico as a "potentially catastrophic" Category 5 hurricane.

"The eye of Maria will move near or over St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands within the next couple of hours, then cross Puerto Rico on Wednesday," according to the National Hurricane Center's 11 p.m. ET advisory, "bringing life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall impacts to portions of those islands."

Government of Antigua & Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda was the first country to greet Hurricane Irma’s more than 185-mile-per-hour winds - the fiercest Atlantic storm ever recorded. Speaking from the capital of St. John’s on Antigua island, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the destruction the island of Barbuda suffered is also historic. Only one person died on Barbuda, but Browne noted the place is now a “ghost town.”

“For the first time in 300 years, Barbuda is uninhabited," Browne told WLRN.

With communications still sketchy on many Caribbean islands smashed by Hurricane Irma, it requires a view from space to take in the magnitude of the destruction from one of the most powerful storms to form in the Atlantic.

Image after image, stretching from Barbuda in the east to Turks and Caicos in the west, shows devastation on a scale that will certainly take years and billions of dollars to rebuild and surely will never be forgotten by those who endured it firsthand. Nearly three dozen people died throughout the Caribbean.

Joel Rouse / AP via Miami Herald

Atlantic hurricanes rarely leave the Caribbean unscathed. The basin is like a bowling alley for storms and the islands its pins. Hurricane Irma – which left at least 36 people dead in the Caribbean last week, including 10 in Cuba, before roaring into Florida on Sunday – was an outsize bowling ball, setting strength records as it crashed into the Leeward Islands on the basin’s eastern fringe.

Updated at 6 a.m. ET Saturday

Hurricane Irma is again a Category 4 storm as it slowly moves along the Cuban coast. The storm made landfall on the Camaguey archipelago of Cuba late Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center. As of 5 a.m. Saturday, the hurricane's center was just off the northern coast near central Cuba. The report puts Irma's traveling speed at 12 mph, about 245 miles south-southeast of Miami.

About 5.6 million people in Florida have been ordered to evacuate; forecasters expect the hurricane to hit Florida early Sunday morning.

Rinsy Xieng / Twitter

While South Florida watches Hurricane Irma’s dangerous approach, the record storm already began tearing through the Caribbean Wednesday morning. But Irma’s path across the basin could help limit its destruction there.

The first to feel Irma’s fierce Category 5 winds were the Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean. Gusts were clocked at 155 miles per hour at Antigua and Barbuda. Still, the storm’s center passed to the north, and officials said the island nation emerged better than expected.

Updated 3:20 a.m. ET Thursday

France's Interior minister says Hurricane Irma has killed at least eight people and left 23 injured on French Caribbean island territories. The Associated Press reports:

Speaking on French radio France Info, Gerard Collomb said the death toll in Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy could be higher because rescue teams have yet to finish their inspection of the islands. Collomb said Thursday: "The reconnaissance will really start at daybreak."

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<a href="https://twitter.com/UNHaiti/status/805826804497993728">Nations Unies Haïti</a>

It was seven years ago today, at 4:53 p.m., that Haiti was violently shaken. In just 35 seconds, the 7.0 earthquake destroyed much of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and claimed more than 200,000 lives.

Just over three months ago, on Oct. 4, Hurricane Matthew dealt another devastating blow to the country. The Category 4 storm’s 145-mph winds tore through Haiti’s southern peninsula, washing away farmland — one of the island nation's “breadbaskets” — along with vast swaths of homes and trees, and killing hundreds of people.

Nadege Green / WLRN

This story originally ran on September 22, 2015

I was born and raised in Miami, but my very Haitian mom always kept true to her roots — especially whenever I didn’t feel well.

Have a sore throat? Sour orange leaves can fix that.  A tummy ache? Freshly picked mint from the backyard will ease the pain.

She is a believer of remed fey, or bush medicine.

My mom comes from a line of Haitian women herbalists from Gonaives, Haiti.  She learned from her mother, who learned from her mother, who learned from her mother and so on.

Jamaica Information Service/Prime Minister's Office

These days the Caribbean seems better known for debt ruin than for dark rum.

The region – South Florida’s next-door neighbor – is home to some of the world’s most indebted countries. Since 2010, five of them have defaulted. The government of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, may soon shut down thanks to its epic debt crisis.

But Jamaica – whose more than $16 billion debt represents 130 percent of its GDP – may be the Caribbean’s debt champ. And that’s a big reason Andrew Holness is expected to be sworn in this week as the island’s new Prime Minister.

Collin Reid / AP via Miami Herald

Jamaica will soon have a new Prime Minister. In yesterday’s parliamentary elections, Andrew Holness and the Jamaican Labor Party scored an upset victory.

Which means they will now have to deal with the Caribbean country's heavy economic crisis.

Jamaica’s debt situation is among the world’s worst. To rein in the problem, current Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller has imposed strong economic austerity measures. Economists say she’s made progress. But political observers say Jamaicans are weary of the belt-tightening.

Michael Erickson

When I recently met Jamaican-American author Max-Arthur Mantle at a South Beach café, we talked about his engaging debut novel, “Batty Bwoy.” But we also chatted about the way he was sitting. That is, with his legs crossed.

“In Jamaica, if you cross your legs, if you’re a male, in a quote-unquote effeminate way, I would get my ass kicked,” Mantle told me.

“As soon as they see me their eyes would roll, then they would get red, and then the anger, then the whole hate will come. And then the slurs.”

Kenya Downs / For WLRN

The island nation of Trinidad and Tobago boasts one of the world's largest carnivals. Dating back to 1783, the pre-Lenten celebration blends French, African and Indian cultures, all leading up to two days of masquerading, also called “playing mas.”

And unlike its South American counterpart in Brazil, anyone can take to the streets in a glitzy, colorful costume, dancing through Port of Spain to the sounds of sweet soca music.

How One Family Is Bringing Steel Pan Back

Oct 8, 2015
Lisann Ramos / WLRN

Henry Potter was a 10-year-old in the Virgin Islands when he was first captivated by a noise from a churchyard.

He remembers:

“I’m like, ‘What is that ting-ting-ting?’ so I looked in and I saw kids playing and I watched them. The next day I went back. And probably about the third day, the guy who was in charge of the band, he asked me, ‘Do you wanna play?’ I’m like scared but I said yes. He said, “Well no problem, you can come, you can come and learn to play.’”

Nadege Green / WLRN

Hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent could face deportation from the Dominican Republic after a constitutional ruling stripped them of their citizenship.

South Florida has one of the largest Haitian populations in the U.S., and over the past few weeks, the Haitian community here has mobilized, holding protests and meetings.

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