Hartlepool couple survive Hurricane Irma

Stephen and Terry Watson.
Stephen and Terry Watson.

A Hartlepool woman has told of her immense relief after hearing her family were safe after Hurricane Irma hit.

Sharon Birch spent ten long hours anxiously waiting for news after the storm hit Anguilla, where her brother and his wife live.

Sharon Birch.

Sharon Birch.

For five years Stephen and Terry Watson have been living on the island, which this morning found itself in the path of the terrifying hurricane.

Sharon, who runs Footpaths Nursery in Hartlepool, said she spent all day frantically trying to get information, but at around 7.30pm this evening 50-year-old Terry managed to get a signal to briefly contact her to say they were alright.

She said: "They had gone to a friend's house where they could get in a bunker and batten down. When they came out it was total devastation.

"All the power to the island is off and the roof is off from the hospital and the secondary school.

"He said it would probably be three or four days before he can get another message to me. But, as long as I know they are alright that's the main thing.

"I am just so thankful and relieved."

Sharon said she has visited her brother and 51-year-old Terry at Anguilla a couple of times and can only imagine how catastrophic the hurricane has been.

She said: "There is a huge amount of poverty on the island, a lot of the houses are just made from wood. It's heartbreaking."

Sharon said Stephen, who works in construction and went to the island with his job, was all packed up for him and Terry to leave the island this week and move to another post in Jamaica, but all the flights were cancelled.

Hurricane Irma has destroyed buildings and caused major flooding on several Caribbean islands, as British tourists are evacuated from the region amid warnings the storm will be "potentially catastrophic".

The island of Barbuda was the first to bear the brunt of Hurricane Irma - a category five storm with winds of 185mph - and there is a possibility it could hit Florida by the weekend.