Hurricane Irma: 'We hid in the bathroom while our hotel roof blew off'

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Hotel room with its roof ripped off following Hurricane IrmaImage source, Tommy White
Image caption,
The roof of the hotel room Tommy and Jessica were staying in was ripped off by Hurricane Irma

A couple still caught up in Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands have told of how the roof of their hotel room was blown off as they bunkered down in the storm.

Tommy White, 27, and Jessica Smart, 28, who both live in Clapham, south-west London, have been holidaying in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands with Jessica's parents and her sisters.

The group had been on a yacht but were moved to a hotel on the south of Tortola on 5 September after the island was placed on hurricane watch.

It was there they waited for the storm to arrive, playing cards as the winds began to pick up and their windows started to "shudder".

"There was an incredibly loud whistling sound of the wind and our ears were popping because of the pressure changes," Jessica said.

"We heard a huge gust come ripping through the valley and a tree landed on our roof with a terrifying bang.

"Then silence."

Image source, Tommy White
Image caption,
Tommy White photographed some of the scenes of destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in Tortola
Image source, Tommy White
Image source, Tommy White

For a moment the wind slowed and they were able to look at the damage the storm had caused - jetties no longer visible, catamarans flipped over, roofs torn off buildings.

A hotel neighbour even told them, optimistically, that the storm would soon be over.

But within minutes the gusts returned at "terrifying speed".

With insulation from the ceiling falling around them, someone from the group yelled at them to run to the bathroom for cover.

"Three of us lay in the bath with a mattress on top that someone had dragged from the bedroom on their way in, one lay next to the bath covered by a mattress and duvet and two cowered under the marble bathroom sinks," Jessica said.

Image source, Tommy White
Image caption,
Tommy and Jessica (right) with the rest of the group before Hurricane Irma struck

Within seconds of bunkering down in the hotel bathroom, the roof of the bedroom was ripped off.

Jessica said there was "continued banging and crashing" as everything in the bedroom was thrown around.

"Furniture was being smashed, the ceiling fan was flying around and the rain was pouring through the wardrobes and flowing under the bathroom door."

Those hiding under the sinks were now sitting in six inches of water that was rising.

"The building was shuddering, as massive air conditioning units toppled off the roof and tree trunks slammed into the outside stairwells.

"We held on for dear life and weathered the worst out."

When Jessica opened the bathroom door, a scene of devastation was revealed - the bedroom was flooded, the ceiling had fallen in, and only the walls and rafters were left standing.

"It was terrifying leaving the room, as there was debris still flying and devastation everywhere."

Image source, Tommy White
Image caption,
The group remain on the island in a one-bed hotel room

The group managed to leave their hotel room but remain on the island in a one-bedroom hotel room with limited drinking water and food and most of their possessions destroyed or lost.

But among all of the devastation they made a "miracle" discovery.

"Perhaps a true miracle is the baby kitten we have been nursing, who was less than a week old when we found her in the rubble. We have aptly named her Irma.