A group of New Zealand scientists are putting a major pest eradication project on hold while they pitch in and help out the devastated Caribbean islands.

Kiwi seabird scientist Elizabeth "Biz" Bell is in Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands, southeast of Florida and 200km north of the Dominican Republic.

She's with a team of ecologists, including four other Kiwis and 10 Brits, working to rid the island of feral cats and rats. They were all evacuated to a large island in the west of the archipelago before Irma struck.

The giant hurricane flooded streets, spawned tornadoes, knocked out power to millions of people across the state and snapped massive construction cranes over the Miami skyline.


Several people have lost their lives in weather-related vehicle accidents on the US mainland while more than a dozen have lost their lives in the Caribbean.

Communication has been cut across the Florida Keys as the downgraded tropical storm moves into Georgia.

Today Bell said the project would take a back seat while they assessed damage to the Caribbean island and work out a new plan.

The international environmental team fared well with their property suffering only minor damage.

However, the island group didn't do well with widespread damage including neighbourhoods destroyed, more than 500 power poles toppled, flooding and foliage stripped from trees.

Bell said the team had been busy clearing roads covered by storm debris and helping neighbours and friends.

"Our first priority is to help with the clean-up and then sort out our work," she said.

"Friends and Pine Cay staff have lost homes and have not been able to contact family members so we are stepping in to help do their work on the island so they can focus on the more important things at home."


Once the team had assessed the project a decision would be made about what to do next, she said.

Bell said the house they took refuge in had a generator. Devices were able to be charged and contact could be made to reassure family members back in New Zealand they had come through unscathed once the hurricane had passed.

"As you can imagine families were very relieved to hear from everyone," she said.

Another Kiwi caught in the hurricane on the US mainland said Irma had left a trail of devastation.

Anna Wilding said she endured a petrifying 10 hours of non-stop pounding and shaking.

She hid in her home's safe room all night after doors started breaking and furniture inside the home was shifted as a giant supercell ripped through Palm Beach.

"It was scary," she said.

"My sofa literally lifted up when I was sitting on it and went back against the wall with the light fixtures swaying for hours."

Now the worst had passed she had ventured outside to see giant trees uprooted, gardens destroyed and debris littering roads.

Despite the carnage those living in the area were outside starting the massive clean up before the official response got under way.