France's Interior minister says Hurricane Irma has killed at least eight people and left 23 injured on French Caribbean island territories.

Speaking on French radio France Info, Gerard Collomb said the number of people dead in Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy could be higher because rescue teams have yet to finish their inspection of the islands.

Collomb said Thursday: "The reconnaissance will really start at daybreak."

Irma is moving to the northeast of the Dominican Republic after blacking out much of Puerto Rico and raking the U.S. territory with wind and rain.

Related: THURSDAY IRMA: What you need to know

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the Category 5 storm's maximum sustained winds are near 180 mph (290 kph). The hurricane center says some fluctuations in strength are likely during the next day or two but Irma is expected to remain a powerful Category 4 or 5 hurricane.

As of 2 a.m. EDT, the storm was about 140 miles (225 kilometers) northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and is moving west-northwest near 16 mph (26 kph).

Editor's Note: Information from the Associated Press is used in this story.