“Apocalyptic” storm wreaks havoc across Caribbean
Airlines are defending themselves against criticism they are hiking prices as people rush to leave Florida as Hurricane Irma approaches. Yet many flights have already been cancelled.
American Airlines will begin winding down operations in south Florida, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, on Friday. Flights scheduled to arrive in Miami on Friday from Europe and elsewhere have been cancelled.
Some social media users have accused carriers of raising their fares ahead of the dangerous storm.
However, American, Delta and JetBlue have all now announced fare caps on flights out of Florida, such as $99 on JetBlue and American and $399 on Delta.
“We want those trying to leave ahead of the hurricane to focus on their safe evacuation rather than worry about the cost of flights,” JetBlue spokesman Doug McGraw said.
Meanwhile, flights to and from Caribbean destinations such as San Juan, Puerto Rico are suspended.
Fort Lauderdale-based Spirit Airlines aims to move its operations centre to Detroit by the end of Thursday.
Canadian airlines Air Transat and WestJet are evacuating passengers from the Dominican Republic and there have been rescue flights to Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, Santa Clara and Cayo Coco, Cuba. Air Canada is allowing passengers to change flights free of charge.
Cruise lines such as Carnival have cancelled journeys between Miami and the Bahamas.
In parts of Florida there are now mandatory orders for residents to evacuate, while the mayor of Miami Beach warns there are no hurricane shelters in Miami Beach so residents are advised to leave the area entirely.
The death toll is rising as “apocalyptic” Irma wreaks havoc across Caribbean. It is the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. The French part of the island of St Martin is “95% destroyed”, according to a local official. Aerial footage of the devastation can be seen in video reports here.
Reuters / Guardian