A man walks by the waterfront as Hurricane Irma approaches Samana, Dominican Republic, Sept. 7, 2017.
A man walks by the waterfront as Hurricane Irma approaches Samana, Dominican Republic, Sept. 7, 2017.

The center of Hurricane Irma is moving past the Dominican Republic as what forecasters are calling a "potentially catastrophic" Category 5 storm.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says even with the eye of the storm well off the country's coast, Irma's winds, storm surge and rainfall remain life-threatening for the Dominican Republic.  Those same conditions are expected late Thursday in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and The Bahamas.

Irma killed at least one person in Barbuda and eight people in St. Martin after rolling over those islands as a Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 285 kilometers per hour.  The NHC says Irma will remain a Category 4 or 5 storm for the next few days.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the death toll on St. Martin is likely to rise.  The island is divided between French and Dutch sides.  Dutch officials said they did not yet have information about casualties, but that there is "huge damage" including to the airport and harbor.

Rescuers from the Municipal Emergency Management A
Rescuers from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency toured the streets of Matelnillo searching for anyone in distress during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Sept. 6, 2017.

Power out in Puerto Rico

Irma passed by Puerto Rico overnight, knocking out power to about one million people.  The head of the power company on the U.S. territory said it could be four to six months before service is totally restored.

U.S. President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, which has been struggling to maintain its infrastructure in the midst of a financial crisis.  The declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief efforts on the island.

"Hurricane Irma is raging but we have great teams of talented and brave people already in place and ready to help. Be careful, be safe! #FEMA," Trump posted Thursday on Twitter.

In Photos: Hurricane Irma Slams Caribbean

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Antigua & Barbuda

Barbuda took a direct hit from Irma, which left behind what Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne called a "really horrendous situation."  Browne said nearly every building was damaged.

Later this week Barbuda also faces the potential of being hit by Hurricane Jose, one of three hurricanes in the region. Jose, which is not as strong as Irma, is forecast to pass near the northern Leeward Islands Saturday before curving north of the path that Irma has followed.

ABS-TV news director Garfield Burford told VOA that in his conversation with the prime minister, Browne said he was "heartbroken" by the damage he saw in Barbuda and that it might be necessary to evacuate the people there to Antigua.

"The prime minister has indicated that if Jose were to be seen to be posing some impact on Antigua and Barbuda, as did Irma, then it would be absolutely essential that he residents on Barbuda evacuate and come to Antigua," Burford said.

In addition to Irma and Jose, Katia is the third hurricane in the area. Katia is located in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. It could strengthen into a major storm before making landfall in eastern Mexico.

Motorists head north on US 1, Sept. 6, 2017, in Ke
Motorists head north on US 1, Sept. 6, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla., in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. Keys officials announced a mandatory evacuation Wednesday for visitors, with residents being told to leave the next day.

?Saturday in Florida

Irma is expected to be affecting the U.S. state of Florida Saturday, still as a major hurricane.  The latest forecast track issued by the NHC showed Irma going near the city of Miami and up the state's east coast.  Hurricane watches are expected to be posted for the state Thursday.

Officials in South Florida have already ordered people to evacuate coastal areas.  Gas stations and grocery stores saw long lines Wednesday as people either fled to a safer area or stocked up supplies to ride out the storm.

Florida Governor Rick Scott told people to prepare now and not ignore mandatory evacuation orders.

"You can rebuild your homes, but you cannot rebuild your life," Scott said.