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"For the first time in 300 years", he said, "there's not a single living person on the island of Barbuda - a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished".

While Antigua was mostly spared from the hurricane, more than 90 per cent of Barbuda was destroyed, forcing its 1,800 residents to flee for shelters on Antigua, about 45 kilometres away.

The island of Barbuda was hit hard when the Category 5 hurricane first made landfall with winds of 185 miles per hour.

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Damage in the village of Codrington on the island of Barbuda, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma. The change may be due to foliage being destroyed by winds, or killed by a coating of sea salt spray.

The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda said the island of Barbuda was "totally destroyed" and the cost was estimated at billions of USA dollars. Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory. Only pets were left on Barbuda. One day after Irma passed, electricity had been restored and the island's airport was reopened. A Rebuild Barbuda Appeal Fund has been launched through the Ascension Trust, founded by Antiguan-born Les Isaac, an ecumenical canon of Southwark Cathedral who was present.

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"The living conditions are not great", Sanders told PRI. "It's government facilities in which they're being located".

Sanders calls the work ahead to restore the island "a mammoth task", adding, "Barbuda is not going to be rebuilt in a hurry, and when we do rebuild it, we're going to have to build it to massive hurricane standards".

Right now, initial estimates suggest that Barbuda will need about $200 million to recover.

Known for its peaceful way of life and natural beauty, Barbuda has abundant wildlife both in its thick bushland and in the turquoise waters which surround the 100km wide island with a population of just 1800. 95% of all island buildings have suffered after the hurricane, with a lot of them completely unusable.

Antigua families have also opened their homes to as many people as they can.

"We are a small island community - the gross domestic product of Antigua is $US1 billion ($1.2 billion) a year", Sanders explained.

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