Barbuda, the first island to feel the force of Hurricane Irma was devastated by its high winds, with Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, saying 90% of buildings had been destroyed and 50% of the population of about 1,000 people left homeless.

The island is now a near-deserted disaster zone. Almost all of its 1,500 residents left for the sister island of Antigua, a 90-minute boat ride away, ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Jose..

“The biggest problem in Barbuda now is the fact that you have so many dead animals in the water and so on, that there is a threat of disease,” said the island’s foreign affairs minister, Charles Fernandez.

“You could put all the people back in Barbuda today … but then you’ll have a medical crisis on your hands.”

One person – two-year-old Carl Junior Francis – is confirmed to have died in the storm. Michael Joseph, president of the Red Cross in Antigua and Barbuda, said:

The devastation is not like we’ve ever seen before – we’re talking about the whole country … of Barbuda being significantly destroyed.

Critical facilities including roads and communications systems were ravaged, with the recovery effort set to take months or years.