Hurricane Irma, a record Category 5 storm, is seen in this NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center image from GOES-16 satellite taken on September 5, 2017. Courtesy NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Hurricane Irma slammed into the Caribbean islands of Saint-Barthelemy and Saint-Martin on Wednesday, the French weather office said, adding that it had caused major flooding in low-lying areas. Coastlines are being “battered extremely violently” by the sea, it said, adding: “These islands are suffering major impacts.” The French government had previously sounded the alarm over thousands of people who had refused to seek shelter on French-run Saint-Barthelemy, also known as St. Barts, and Saint-Martin, an island divided between France and the Netherlands. Meanwhile the top hurricane warning was lifted in Guadeloupe, to the southeast, authorities there said while still warning of heavy rain and storms and a “dangerous sea”.

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