Hurricane Irma was 378 miles wide and near the peak of its intensity as a Category 5 hurricane when it made landfall and tore into the 62-square-mile island of Barbuda on the night of September 5 – 6.
“The damage is complete,” said Ronald Sanders, who has been Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the US since 2015.
“For the first time in 300 years, there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda. A civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished.”
Mr Sanders described Irma as “the most ferocious, cruel and merciless storm” in the island’s history.
“This was a huge monster,” he told USA Today. “The island and the people on the island had absolutely no chance.”
Barbuda and Antigua prime minister Gaston Browne implemented a mandatory evacuation order on September 8, to ensure every single resident was moved to safety.
Speaking to the BBC’s Laura Bicker as the evacuation got underway, Mr Browne said that a rapid recovery and rebuild operation was unlikely.
He said: “I have to tell you that we definitely cannot afford it from domestic resources.We are hoping that friendly governments and international partners will step up to the plate and assist us… This is a disaster. A national disaster of epic proportions and we really need external assistance. This is not a want. This is a need.”
The last major storm to hit Barbuda was in 1995, when Hurricane Luis made landfall as a Category 4 storm, killing three people, injuring 100 and causing widespread damage to buildings, leaving many homeless.