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Saturday, 9 September 2017

Hurricane Irma: Florida evacuates as damaging 130mph winds arrive

The skyline is seen as the outerbands of Hurricane Irma start to reach Florida on September 9, 2017 in Miami, Florida.


The skyline is seen as the outerbands of Hurricane Irma start to reach Florida on September 9, 2017 in Miami, Florida. Credit: Getty

Strong "damaging" wind and rain from Hurricane Irma's outer bands began lashing Florida's southern tip Saturday morning forecasters issue dire warnings of a potentially deadly storm surge from the Category 4 storm. Hurricane Irma pounded Cuba's northern coast on Saturday as it headed for Florida, where millions of residents were told to evacuate after the storm killed 22 people in the Caribbean and left devastation in its wake.




Still a Category 5 storm when it crashed into Cuba in the early hours of Saturday, Irma weakened slightly to a Category 4 as it tore along the island's northern coastline, downing power lines, bending palm trees and sending huge waves crashing over sea walls.
 
One of the fiercest Atlantic storms in a century, Irma is expected to cause major damage due to high winds and flooding to the fourth-largest US state by population.

As many as 5.6 million people were told to evacuate from Florida - more than a quarter of the state's population. At least 540,000 people in parts of Georgia were also told to flee as the storm headed towards the American mainland.
"This is a storm that will kill you if you don't get out of the way," said National Hurricane Center meteorologist and spokesman Dennis Feltgen.
Feltgen said the storm has a really wide eye, with hurricane-force winds that cover the entire Florida peninsula and potentially deadly storm surges on both coasts.
Tom Bossert, US homeland security adviser, said: "Please listen to your local authorities.
"You need to evacuate from south to north – that is a staggered and carefully thought-out process.
"There will come a point where you are on your own."
In West Palm Beach police are going door to door, urging people to obey the mandatory evacuation order.
Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, said they were working to ensure that fuel was available for cars to get to shelters. He told people they should not wait, and should leave now.
Irma claimed its first victim in Florida, even before making landfall, when a 57-year-old man fell from a ladder while fitting storm shutters at his home.
The RAF has sent several aid planes to the region after the British territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands was "pummelled" by howling winds of up to 175mph and 20ft waves early on Friday.
Florida's major theme parks, including Walt Disney World, Universal and SeaWorld, will remain closed throughout the weekend.
The US military was on Friday night mobilising thousands of troops and deploying several large ships to aid with evacuations and humanitarian relief, as the air force removed scores of planes from the region.
Meanwhile, extra troops were sent to the devastated holiday island of Saint-Martin on Friday to control serious looting, as three RAF planes began ferrying troops and equipment to hard-hit British territories. UK Marines have also arrived on Anguilla to begin repairing buildings.
As Irma cuts through the Caribbean, two other storms in the region have been upgraded to hurricane status: Katia in the Gulf of Mexico and Jose, which is following Irma in the Atlantic and has made landfall in eastern Mexico. However it had weakened to a Category 1 storm.


Saint Martin island
Irma storm surges on Saint-Martin island Credit: Netherlands Ministry of Defence/REUTERS
The Red Cross said an estimated 1.2 million people have already been affected by Irma and that figure could rise sharply to 26 million, amid fears disease could spread in areas where drinking water and sanitation services have broken down.
US President Donald Trump said in a videotaped statement that Irma was "a storm of absolutely historic destructive potential" and called on people to heed recommendations from government officials and law enforcement.


Boats clustered together n the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma on Friday.
Boats clustered together n the British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma on Friday. Credit: AP
In Palm Beach, Trump's waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate was ordered evacuated. But strikes by four previous hurricanes did little damage to the facility in the 90 years since cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second husband, financier E.F. Hutton, built the 126-room, 62,500-square foot (5,800-square meter) estate in Palm Beach. The mansion's walls are 3-feet (1 metre) thick, anchored by steel and concrete beams embedded into coral rock.
An estimated 400,000 Britons live in Florida. They and thousands of tourists are being supported by David Prodger, the UK's consul general, with a team of staff deployed at Miami airport helping people to get home.
Source: telegraph.co.uk

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