Hurricane Irma: St Maarten's famous beachside airport heavily damaged

A Caribbean beachside airport where tourists gather to experience jet blast-force winds has been destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

Photos are emerging of Princess Juliana International Airport in St Maarten showing the damage of the most powerful Atlantic storm ever, which is now making its way to the US.

In Barbuda, communication has been completely cut off since the hurricane passed over six hours ago, prompting concerns of devastating damage on the Caribbean island.

Antigua and Barbuda's High Commissioner Karen-Mae Hill told Sky News all contact with the island was lost more than seven hours ago.

"The last report we had from our sister island was the police station was destroyed, the roof came off completely. Houses all around Codrington, the main settlement on Barbuda, have lost their roofs."

St Maarten is a popular destination for tourists seeking to experience jets taking off up close, who despite warnings, hold onto the fence behind the planes as they take off.

Princess Juliana International Airport is famous with thrill-seeking tourists.
Princess Juliana International Airport is famous with thrill-seeking tourists. Photo credit: Getty

A Kiwi woman died there earlier this year after she let go and was thrown backwards onto the concrete.

Photos show the airport now badly damaged, with fences pulled down, airbridges lying on their sides and smashed windows and rubble littering the inside.

St Maarten felt the full brunt of the Category 5 storm last night, ripping roofs from buildings and leaving a trail of damage in its path.

Irma is expected to make landfall in Florida on Saturday.