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A resident of an island destroyed by Hurricane Irma has told how she was struck by a washing machine as her house was battered by the storm.

Sarah Penney, a UK citizen who was born and raised on Tortola, said the washer-dryer could have taken her with it as it was lifted off the ground.

The 33-year-old was saved by her friend, who managed to push the appliance away and into the direction of the wind.

She said: "I sincerely would not be alive, I would not have survived Hurricane Irma, had he not been there."

Ms Penney was sheltering with her eight-month-old baby, her mother, 70, and friend, Chouby, at home during the storm when the group were forced to retreat to the bathroom.

Along with her friend, she attempted to secure the nursery as an alternative shelter, but they were stopped when high winds pulled the glass from the windows.

The door of the nursery was sucked shut by the pressure, trapping the pair inside, but they managed to escape when the winds dropped for a moment. Ms Penney said:

"The washer and dryer got lifted and thrown towards me when we were trying to get a piece of wood back up on the door.

"It slammed into me, but it would have taken me if Chouby hadn't been able to be right next to me and just push it so that it got directed into the wind. It's like we've been bombed.

"There isn't a single leaf on a tree, there's no trees. I think humans have fared a lot better than animals. It's going to take a generation to come back from this.

"People's 'everything' is gone, their businesses, their homes, their churches, their schools, are gone."

But Ms Penney, who helped in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, has chosen to stay behind to help on the ground and is orchestrating "salvage and supply runs".

Ms Penney said: "Most of us need to see this place rebuilt as quickly as it can and that really only happens when those of us who have the know-how and the determination and local knowledge, stay on."

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