IT WAS a little known resort island in the east Caribbean once favoured as a secret holiday escape by Princess Diana.
But now for the first time in 300 years the country is completely empty.
The lesser-known twin island of Antigua, Barbuda lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
World renowned for its pink sand beaches many miles long, Barbuda was listed in 2016 by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the top ten destinations to watch.
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.
But Hurricane Irma hit the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda so hard that, for the first time in 300 years, no one is living there, reports the New York Post.
"The damage is complete," Ronald Sanders, the Antigua and Barbuda ambassador to the United States, told Public Radio International.
"It's a humanitarian disaster. For the first time in 300 years, there's not a single living person on the island of Barbuda - a civilisation that has existed in that island for close to, over 300 years has now been extinguished."
All 1800 residents living on Barbuda were forced to evacuate in the wake of Hurricane Irma, a 608-kilometre wide storm that smashed nearly every structure on the island, which is only 160 square kilometres. Most are now staying on Antigua.
"This was a huge monster," Sanders said. "The island and the people on the island had absolutely no chance."
It will take around $US200 million ($250 million) for Barbuda to recover - and the island won't be able to rebuild without outside help, he added.
"We are a small island community - the gross domestic product of Antigua is $US1 billion ($1.2 billion) a year," Sanders explained. "We cannot afford to take on this responsibility by ourselves. Barbuda is not just a disaster, it's a humanitarian crisis. We are hopeful that the international community will come to our aid, not because we're begging for something we want, but because we're begging for something that is needed."
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