A TWO-YEAR-OLD child from Barbuda is among at least 10 victims of Hurricane Irma as it left a trail of death and destruction across the Caribbean.

The youngster died as his family attempted to flee the category five storm which whipped up winds of more than 157 mph.

The tropical cyclone swept past Puerto Rico and headed toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti on its way to Florida, where residents have been clearing supermarket shelves of provisions as they stock up.

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At least 10 people have died and authorities are struggling to get aid to small Caribbean islands devastated by the storm’s record 185 mph winds. Barbuda's prime minister called the island "barely habitable" and St. Martin, an island split between French and Dutch control, experienced such extensive damage that parts of it were completely destroyed.

The epicentre of the storm was located about 110 miles north of the Dominican Republic, moving west-northwest at 17 mph toward the Bahamas.

After skirting Cuba, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade may reach Florida by the weekend and people there have rushed to get prepare for a possible direct hit on the Miami area.

Florida Governor Rick Scott called Irma "powerful and deadly" and said the state's biggest problem is fuel availability for people who have still not left threatened areas.

He said state and federal officials have waived regulations to speed up delivery of fuel from Florida ports and neighboring states.

"We know fuel is very important," he said. "We are devoting every state resource to addressing this.

He also said the state would provide transport for those who find they do not have enough fuel to get out.

"This is not just a storm you can sit and wait through," he said.

Communications with areas already hit by Irma have been difficult, and information on damage trickled out. However, authorities cautioned the death toll is likely to rise.

The two-year-old victim was from Barbuda, eight of the dead were from the French Indies territories of St Martin and St Bart's and one was from the Commonwealth territory of Anguilla. The UK Government described the situation there as "critical."

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the death toll on St. Martin and St. Bart's will likely climb as rescue teams have yet to finish their inspection of the islands.

More than 100,000 food rations have been sent to the islands but it is only expected to last four days.

“It’s a tragedy, we’ll need to rebuild both islands,” he said. “Most of the schools have been destroyed.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there are no reports yet of casualties on the Dutch Indies side of St Martin, but noted the damage was severe with "wide-scale destruction of infrastructure, houses and businesses."

"There is no power, no gasoline, no running water," Rutte added. "Houses are under water, cars are floating through the streets, inhabitants are sitting in the dark, in ruined houses and are cut off from the outside world."

On Puerto Rico, more than half of the island was without power, leaving 900,000 in the dark and nearly 50,000 without water, the U.S. territory’s emergency management agency said. Fourteen hospitals were using generators after losing power, and trees and light poles were strewn across roads.

Irma is expected to be ultimately bigger than than Hurricane Andrew, the Category 5 storm that in 1992 killed 65 people in Florida, destroyed more than 63,500 homes and caused $26.5 billion in damage.