Oil prices fell today after almost a week of rises as Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms in a century, drove toward Florida and the US southeast after destroying islands in the Caribbean. 

Irma, the second major hurricane to approach the US in two weeks, has already killed 14. 

Its predecessor, Harvey, shut a quarter of US refineries and 8% of US oil production, with crude prices slumping as low refining activity sharply reduced demand for oil to process. 

It will take weeks for the US petroleum industry to return to full capacity, analysts said. 

In the case of Irma, analysts are more worried that devastation wrought by the storm could sharply reduce demand for energy.

US light crude oil was down 87 cents or 1.8% lower at $48.22 a barrel this evening. 

Brent crude was down 33 cents or 0.6% at $54.16 a barrel after reaching its highest level since April at $54.80. 

Both benchmarks were on track for weekly gains exceeding 1.4%.

US oil output fell by almost 8% because of Harvey, from 9.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to 8.8 million bpd, according to the Energy Information Administration. 

But Irma is headed away from the heart of US oil production.

Port and refinery closures along the Gulf coast and harsh sea conditions in the Caribbean have hit shipping. 

Analysts said that imports of oil to the US Gulf Coast fell to levels not seen since the 1990s. 

Hurricane Irma hit the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Friday, heading for Cuba and the Bahamas. It was predicted to reach Florida by Sunday. 

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Irma was a Category 5 hurricane, with wind speeds of 160-185 miles per hours. 

Hurricane Jose is heading for the Caribbean Leeward islands, which have just been devastated by Irma.